How to Condition Score a Horse

One Methods:Sample Condition Score Chart

Condition scoring is a method of measuring the condition (fat) of a horse. It is the best way to monitor a horse’s weight, and it needs no special equipment. If done correctly, condition scoring works despite conditions which may fool the owner’s eye (such as a horse’s conformation or medical or physical conditions such as a worm burned, pregnancy, grass belly, etc). There are two systems of condition scoring, the European and US versions. The US version is more detailed and is the one covered by this article.


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    Get your horse to stand so that it can be examined. Be sure you know which parts you'll be feeling.
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    Feel along the neck. Run your hand along the area that is usually covered by the mane. Does the neck connect with the body smoothly, or is it bony or fatty in this region? Determine whether the bones are visible or just palpable. Can you feel or see any fat or a crest?
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    Run your hands along the withers. Feel for bone structures and fat; don’t be fooled by prominent withers, which is due to conformation, or muscle wastage, which is probably due to an ill-fitting saddle.
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    Move onto the shoulder. If very fat the horse will also have fat deposits behind the shoulder. Is the shoulder smooth? Can you feel or see any fat or bones?
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    Explore along the ribs by stroking in the direction of the rib with the flat of your hand. At one extreme, the ribs may be protruding; at the other extreme, the ribs are so cushioned in fat that they can't even be felt.
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    Examine the back by putting one finger on the spine and watch whether your other fingers are above, below or level with that one. Is there a groove along the spine or is it level? How visible are the vertebrae?
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    Ask someone to hold the tail to one side while you stand behind the horse. Look at the shape of the quarters and the space between the inner buttocks. Feel for bone structures and fat deposits. How much space is there between the buttocks? Are the quarters round or diamond-shaped?
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    Rate each part according to the table below. Get the average score by adding together all the scores and dividing by six.

Sample Condition Score Chart

Sample Condition Score Chart for Horses


  • Condition score every 2 weeks and plot your horse’s score on a graph. This can be used with or without a weight tape, but condition scoring is more precise.
  • Score 4 (moderately thin) to score 6 (moderately fleshy) are healthy. The ideal weight for a horse will depend on the management and workload. A racing or event horse will likely be score 4 while a dressage or show horse will be closer to score 6.
  • Taking photos regularly will also help keep track of your horse’s weight, and are especially helpful while learning to condition score.


  • Use your hands as well as your eyes.
  • Condition scoring can only be partially taught, as proficiency with this type of scoring comes mostly with experience. You will become more accurate with practice as you learn what a horse should look and feel like.
  • Never stand directly behind a horse. To view the horse from behind, stand well back out of a range of a kick. Don’t underestimate a horse’s reach.
  • Condition scoring is a measure of fat, not fitness.
  • Stallions, and occasionally geldings, have a crest. This is due to hormones, not fat.

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