Horse body charts help you evaluate your horse’s health and weight, and make decisions about the appropriate diet and exercise for them. These charts provide a standard scale for you, your veterinarian and equine nutritionist to use and compare horses on an individual basis. They are also helpful for keeping track of a herd’s energy balance and assessing the quality of feed.
You can evaluate your horse’s body condition by using both a visual and hands-on inspection, and scoring each area of the body on a scale from 0 (very thin) to 5 (very fat). Each individual score is then averaged to get the overall score for the body. A score of 3 is considered ideal for most horses, with a 4 considered healthy and a 5 being very fit. Some disciplines, like racing, require a higher body condition score.
First, visually inspect the neck and shoulders. Check to see if the neck muscles can be felt without much pressure, and if there are any hard spots that feel firm when touched. A neck that is too heavy can slow the horse down and cause him to fatigue more quickly, and a too-narrow chest can restrict the movement of the shoulder blades.
Then, move on to the middle body. When you run your hand down the back, the ribs should be easily felt without any pressure. There should be some fat present between the ribs, but it shouldn’t be over them. If you have to apply a lot of pressure to feel the ribs, or can’t feel them at all, your horse is carrying too much weight in this area.
Finish by examining the hindquarters. When you touch the hip bones, they should be clearly defined and able to be felt with only slight pressure. If you have to apply a lot to feel them, or can’t feel them at all, you are seeing excess fat. The rump should be flat either side of the spine and have a deep gutter to the tail bone.
A horse with a poor body condition score can suffer from a number of problems, including overworking the muscles and wearing down joints. He can also develop a weaker heart, lung and digestive system. It is essential to keep a close eye on a horse’s body condition and diet to prevent problems, or catch them before they become serious.
During the medieval and Renaissance period, human healers used charts to illustrate the diseases that could affect each part of the body. These charts were later adopted by horse veterinarians to assist them in evaluating their patients’ body conditions. These charts became known as “Disease Man” or “Disease Horse.” The information provided by these charts is vital for determining if your horse is overweight, underweight or in the correct body condition.