Nutrition Series Part 1
What is your horse's "score"?
By Dr. Amanda Wilson
What is your horse's BCS? How do you determine it? How do you use this information for your horse's health?
Equine veterinarians use the Body Condition Score (BCS) system developed by Dr. Don Henneke to create a standard in assessing a horse's body weight. By assigning horses a number, we can determine if their weight needs to be adjusted and how to appropriately do that through nutrition and exercise.
The scale ranges from 1 to 9, with a 1 being emaciated and a 9 very obese. Most horses are ideally at a BCS 5. This can be somewhat variable depending on breed and discipline.
Horses deposit fat in certain areas on their body. The areas are:
1. Crest of the neck
2. Over the withers
3. Behind the shoulder
4. Crease down the back
When your veterinarian assigns your horse a Body Condition Score, they are evaluating all of these areas on the body. They will also document your horse's BCS in its medical record.
Now what do we do with this information? We use it to determine if your horse's nutrition program is appropriate for its needs. Horses with a BCS of 1 to 4 need to gain weight and horses with a BCS of 6 to 9 need to lose weight.
We all know that being underweight and not getting enough calories can be detrimental to health. On the flip side, being overweight can be dangerous for a horse, too. Overweight horses have an increased of laminitis, or founder. Laminitis is a debilitating disease.
During your next vet visit, ask them to assign your horse a BCS if they haven't done so already.
Here are some additional resources: