If you follow my blog you know I am always talking about this. Vets use it, nutritionists use it, animal welfare organizations use it, because a BCS is a universal way of determining the current condition of your horse. Specifically, what is the score on a ratings scale from 1 to 9 of your horse’s current weight.
There are a few variations on BCS systems but I like (as do most vets) the Henneke system. Using the Henneke Body Conditioning system you see and feel for fat deposits to determine the BCS of your animal. There are six areas you feel and “eye”; the crest of the neck, the withers, the loin or crease down their back, right above the tail, the ribs, and right behind the front leg at the shoulder.
You begin by rating each area with a score between 1 which is extremely thin, to 9 which is obese. You then add all six scores together and divide by six to get your horse’s BCS.
Most vets agree that a horse with a BCS of 5 is in good weight or condition. Remember, you will need to allow for variations according to breed and discipline, for example, a race horse could have a BCS of 4 and be fit and healthy, where a show hunter could be a 6-7 and look fine for their job.
This race horse looks good at a BCS of 4
This show hunter looks appropriate at a BCS of 7
like to stress the importance of feeling instead of just looking, especially in the winter when horses are most likely to lose weight and also have thick coats that hide ribs and bones. If you feel the spongy fat deposits you know your horse needs less calories and/or more exercise. If you see and feel bones protruding you obviously would need to add calories. In both circumstances you should consult with your vet to rule out any health conditions that might be contributing to their weight issue.
I suggest horse owners rate their horse once a month. That way you will catch things before they get to be a problem. When you see your horse regularly little fluctuations might not be noticed.
Here is a handy chart for quick reference.
~Peace and Good Feed,
Images in this post came from the following sources:
Happy Horse Healthy Planet
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