Citation
Body condition scoring  of horses

Material Information

Title:
Body condition scoring of horses
Series Title:
2003 Florida Equine Institute papers
Creator:
Shuffer, J. M.
TenBroeck, S. H.
Affiliation:
University of Florida -- Department of Animal Sciences -- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publisher:
Department of Animal Sciences, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Agriculture ( LCSH )
Farm life ( LCSH )
Farming ( LCSH )
University of Florida. ( LCSH )
Agriculture -- Florida ( LCSH )
Farm life -- Florida ( LCSH )
Horses ( jstor )
Fats ( jstor )
Body condition ( jstor )
Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida

Notes

Funding:
Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life

Record Information

Source Institution:
Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location:
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida

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Body Condition Scoring of Horses

J.M. .\-inJJut andS.H. TenBroeck2
'Marion County Extension Service, Ocala, FL
2Department ofAnimal Sciences, Gainesville, FL
University of Florida/IFAS


Introduction

Equine body condition is primarily a
function of the balance between a horse's
intake and expenditure of energy and is
affected by both external and internal
factors. Availability and amount of feed and
water, reproductive status, changes in
weather, parasite load, performance
demands, and dental abnormalities are all
factors that may influence the body
condition of horses. This system of appraisal
is based on the amount and proportion of fat
and muscle present on an animal. A
numerical value 2 (emaciated) to 8 (very fat)
is assigned to horses based on visual
appraisal and palpable fat cover at six areas
of the horse's body (Fig. 1). These areas can
be described in such detail as to provide the
equine appraiser with a visual image for
scoring (Table 1). To accurately determine
body condition, horsemen must rely on both
visual observation (what the horse looks
like), and manual palpation (what the horse
feels like). The technique of evaluating and
quantifying a horse's body condition is a
tool horsemen can use for nutrition and
reproduction management decisions.
(- Lek^ A Alni
"l',lhad -n the then a ck,
.ck %Ithc


Body condition of horses is affected by
both external and internal circumstances.
Availability and amount of feed, water,
reproductive status, changes in weather,
parasite control, performance demands, and
dental abnormalities are all factors that
influence the body condition of horses.

This visual method of assessing horses
may be used to supplement regular weighing
programs. Body condition or change in body
condition is a more reliable indicator of
nutritional status than liveweight or change
in liveweight. It is important to note that all
horses of the same weight will not
necessarily have the same body condition
score. For instance, a 1200 pound horse may
either have high or low body condition score
depending on the animal's frame size,
muscling and fat deposition. Each animal is
scored according to its individual
characteristics.

Reproductive performance of
broodmares is also related to condition
score. Poor body condition of broodmares
(below BCS 5) has been shown to:

i increase number of days to first estrus
O require more services per conception
a increase foaling intervals
a lower percentage of pregnant mares

Evaluating Body Condition

It is not difficult to learn how to evaluate
equine body condition. Initially, almost all
horsemen will be able to recognize the
difference between BSC 2 and BSC 5.


Figure 1. Diagram of areas emphasized in condition score.









Body Condition Scoring of Horses

J.M. .\-inJJut andS.H. TenBroeck2
'Marion County Extension Service, Ocala, FL
2Department ofAnimal Sciences, Gainesville, FL
University of Florida/IFAS


Introduction

Equine body condition is primarily a
function of the balance between a horse's
intake and expenditure of energy and is
affected by both external and internal
factors. Availability and amount of feed and
water, reproductive status, changes in
weather, parasite load, performance
demands, and dental abnormalities are all
factors that may influence the body
condition of horses. This system of appraisal
is based on the amount and proportion of fat
and muscle present on an animal. A
numerical value 2 (emaciated) to 8 (very fat)
is assigned to horses based on visual
appraisal and palpable fat cover at six areas
of the horse's body (Fig. 1). These areas can
be described in such detail as to provide the
equine appraiser with a visual image for
scoring (Table 1). To accurately determine
body condition, horsemen must rely on both
visual observation (what the horse looks
like), and manual palpation (what the horse
feels like). The technique of evaluating and
quantifying a horse's body condition is a
tool horsemen can use for nutrition and
reproduction management decisions.
(- Lek^ A Alni
"l',lhad -n the then a ck,
.ck %Ithc


Body condition of horses is affected by
both external and internal circumstances.
Availability and amount of feed, water,
reproductive status, changes in weather,
parasite control, performance demands, and
dental abnormalities are all factors that
influence the body condition of horses.

This visual method of assessing horses
may be used to supplement regular weighing
programs. Body condition or change in body
condition is a more reliable indicator of
nutritional status than liveweight or change
in liveweight. It is important to note that all
horses of the same weight will not
necessarily have the same body condition
score. For instance, a 1200 pound horse may
either have high or low body condition score
depending on the animal's frame size,
muscling and fat deposition. Each animal is
scored according to its individual
characteristics.

Reproductive performance of
broodmares is also related to condition
score. Poor body condition of broodmares
(below BCS 5) has been shown to:

i increase number of days to first estrus
O require more services per conception
a increase foaling intervals
a lower percentage of pregnant mares

Evaluating Body Condition

It is not difficult to learn how to evaluate
equine body condition. Initially, almost all
horsemen will be able to recognize the
difference between BSC 2 and BSC 5.


Figure 1. Diagram of areas emphasized in condition score.






2003 Florida Equine Institute


Minor differences may be more difficult
to detect until scoring has been practiced.
Condition scoring requires a modest amount
of training and will improve with
experience.

First, know the definition of Body
Condition Score 5. A BCS 5 horse will look
average neither fat nor thin. The ribs
cannot be seen, but can be easily palpated.
The horse's back will be level and the body
will appear smooth. In addition, definition of
muscling on the hind legs will be apparent.


Figure 2.


After a mental picture of a BCS 5 has
been established, this image can be used as a
benchmark for determining other condition
scores. Condition scores of 4 or higher
generally reflect fat deposition, whereas
BCS 3 or lower often reflects both fat and
muscle loss.

Second, visually and manually evaluate
the amount of fat deposition and muscling as
it occurs on the following sites:

/ behind the shoulder
/ ribs at mid-barrel
/ crest of neck
/ withers
/ crease of the back, and
/ at the tailhead.


Third, consider external and internal
factors. Fill or shrink from digestive
contents and/or pregnancy can change the
appearance of moderately fleshed horses.
Long hair may also make it difficult to
visually appraise body condition. When
horse are difficult to evaluate visually, the
amount of body fat in relation to
musculature must be determined by feel.

Finally, compare result of direct
observation and manual palpation with the
descriptions of body condition scores given
in Table 1.

Table 1. Description of Body Condition
Scores
BCS Description
2 Emaciated No evidence of any
fat deposits. Bony structure of ribs,
spinal column and hips prominent.
Animal may show signs of
weakness and/or uncoordination
when asked to move.
3 Very Thin Very little evidence
of fat deposits. Spinal column is
the highest part of the horses back
from the withers to the tailhead.
4 Thin Ribs are evident. Spinal
column is the highest part of the
horses back from the withers to the
croup. A slight amount of fat may
be felt around the tailhead.
5 Desired Condition The horse's
body is smooth. Ribs are not
visually evident, but are easily felt.
Back is level, no crease or ridge
noticeable. Withers are rounded,
shoulders and neck blend cleanly
into the body. Fat around the
tailhead will feel spongy. Muscles
of the hind leg are evident.






2003 Florida Equine Institute


Table 1. Description of Body Condition
Scores (cont.)
BCS Description
6 Excess Condition Moderate
pressure needed to feel ribs. Horse
may have crease down back. Fat
deposits around the tailhead will
feel soft. Fats deposits may be
readily felt behind the shoulder
and along the crest of the neck.
Areas between muscles beginning
to fill with fat.

7 Fat Ribs are difficult to feel.
Crease down back; croup filled
with fat. Fat around tailhead very
soft; area along withers and behind
shoulder filled with fat. Noticeable
thickening of neck, fat deposits
along inner thighs. Muscle
definition no longer apparent.
8 Very Fat Excessive pressure
needed to feel ribs. Definite
"gutter crease" down back with
extensive fat deposits over much
of the body. Soft patchy fat: over
ribs, around tailhead, along
withers, behind shoulders, and
along the neck. Fat on inner thighs
may rub together.

Recommendations

i Adjust feeding program to ensure
adequate energy intake from a forage-
based diet
a For horses below BCS 5, provide higher
quality forages or higher levels of energy
supplements balanced with protein to
reduce weight loss or improve condition
score
a Provide free-choice mineral year-round
i Control disease and parasites by
developing an appropriate herd health
program (Consult your veterinarian)


Summary

When performed on a regular basis,
condition score may be used to provide an
overall view of the nutritional status of the
herd as well as individual horses in the herd.
Condition score is a helpful tool in
determining the amount and type of forage,
concentrate, and supplement needed.

Adjustments of condition score should
be made prior to breeding (Table 2).
Research has shown higher conception rates
with fewer services for mares that enter the
breeding season with a BCS 5 or greater
(Henneke, et al., 1984). Even though excess
body fat was not shown to adversely affect
conception rates, obese mares may:
experience difficulty foaling, produce less
milk, and be more prone to laminitis
problems.

Table 2. Adjusting Concentrate Intake
Score Condition Adjustment
3 or less Very thin +40%
4 Thin +20%
5 Desired cond. 0
6 Excess cond. -20%
7 Fat -40%
8 Very fat -60%


References:


Henneke, D. R., Potter G. D., & Kreider, J.
L. (1984). Body condition during
pregnancy and lactation and
reproductivity efficiency of mares.
Theriogenology, 21(6), 897-909.

Henneke, D. R., Potter G. D., Kreider, J. L.,
& Yeates, B. F. (1983). Relationship
between condition score, physical
measurements and body fat percentage
in mares. Equine Veterinary Journal,
15(4), 371-372.






2003 Florida Equine Institute


Johnson, E. L. & Asquith, R. L. (1993).
Recognizing the healthy horse. Horse
Industry Handbook. Lexington, KY.:
American Youth Horse Council.

Kunkle, W. E., Sand, R. S., & Rae, D. O.
(1994). Effects of body condition on
productivity in beef cattle. University of
Florida Extension Service Publication
SP 144.

Ott, E. A. (1981). Criteria for assessing the
body condition of horses. Presented at
Marion County Cooperative Extension
Equine Technical Class.