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Body Condition ScoringBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · February 9, 2011

Body condition score (BCS) is the number from 1 to 9 that describes the amount of fat and muscle a horse is carrying, with 1 signifying extreme emaciation and 9 indicating extreme obesity. The Kentucky Horse Council offers optimal BCS numbers for horses used in various uses and disciplines. (Free BCS chart.)

According to this list, horses used for endurance, eventing, polo, and ranch work should score 4 to 5. Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses should score 4 to 6, as should breeding stallions and open mares. Hunters, jumpers, dressage mounts, Quarter Horses, and stallions in the off season should score 5 to 7.  Pregnant mares and most ponies should have scores of 6 to 8.

Because each horse is an individual as to metabolism, workload, and temperament, owners should consult a veterinarian or an equine nutritionist to evaluate their horses and recommend suitable feeding plans. Keeping a horse at its optimum body condition will help to ensure the horse can perform the work that is asked of it and can decrease its risk for colic, laminitis, and other diseases related to feed management.

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