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Body Condition Scoring

Body condition scoring is a practical method of assessing external fat covering (the fat you can see and feel as opposed to internal fat around the organs) using a numerical grading system – most commonly a 1-9 or 0-5 scale. If using the 1-9 scale, six areas where fat is commonly laid down are scored individually (neck, withers, shoulder, ribs, loins and tailhead) before taking an average to calculate the final score.  

Tip: It can take a number of weeks for changes in BCS to occur, especially in very overweight horses. Try monitoring belly-girth alongside BCS.

Body Condition Index (BCI)

The BCI is a method of assessing body fat similar to the body mass index (BMI) used in humans. Unlike the more subjective body condition scoring systems, the BCI uses a mathematical equation to calculate a score between 1 and 9 using the horse’s height, heart-girth, belly-girth and neck circumference. The BCI may be particularly useful when body condition is monitored by more than one person or by those less experienced in body condition scoring. It may be less accurate in small breeds such as Shetlands or draught horses although more work is currently under-way to improve this.

Tip: Monitor every 2 weeks using the BCI calculator here.

Weigh tapes

Weigh tapes may under/ over-estimate your horse’s actual bodyweight but if used correctly, they can be useful way of tracking gradual changes.

Tip: Monitor weekly using the same weigh tape, ideally at the same time of day.

Belly girth

Measured around the widest point of the trunk (belly), belly-girth is the most sensitive indicator of general fat loss in response to changes in diet. This perhaps makes it one of the most useful weight monitoring tools in overweight horses and ponies.

Heart girth

Measured as the horse/ pony breathes out by passing a tape measure immediately behind the base of the withers and the elbows.

Rump width

Measured from the point of one hip to the point of the other.

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