Welfare of equidae: code of practice

This guide covers all domesticated equidae for which a person is responsible, including all horses, ponies, donkeys and hybrids and details a set of principles underpinning equine care.

Appendix C: body score charts

Body condition scoring of horses

Body condition scoring of horses



Back and Ribs


0 Very Poor

Angular, skin tight.

Very sunken rump.

Deep cavity under tail.

Skin tight over ribs.

Very prominent and sharp backbone.

Marked ewe neck.

Narrow and slack at base.

1 Poor

Prominent pelvis and croup.

Sunken rump but skin supple.

Deep cavity under tail.

Ribs easily visible.

Prominent back bone with sunken skin on either side.

Ewe neck, narrow and slack base.

2 Moderate

Rump flat either side of backbone.

Croup well defined,
some fat.

Slight cavity under tail.

Ribs just visible.

Backbone covered but spines can be felt.

Narrow but firm.

3 Good

Covered by fat and rounded.

No gutter.

Pelvis easily felt.

Ribs just covered and easily felt.

No gutter along the back.

Backbone well covered but spines can be felt.

No crest (except for stallions) firm neck.

4 Fat

Gutter to root of tail.

Pelvis covered by fat.

Need firm pressure to feel.

Ribs well covered - need pressure to feel.

Slight crest.

Wide and firm.

5 Very Fat

Deep gutter to root of tail.

Skin distended.

Pelvis buried cannot be felt.

Ribs buried, cannot be felt.

Deep gutter along back.

Back broad and flat.

Marked crest very wide and firm.

Fold of fat.

(Based on the Carroll and Huntington Method)

To obtain a body score, score the pelvis first, then adjust by half a point if it differs by one point or more to the back or neck.

Copyright NEWC 2005
Reproduced with the permission of the National Equine Welfare Council

Body condition scoring of donkeys

Body condition scoring of donkeys


Neck and Shoulders


Ribs and Belly

Back and Loins


1 Poor

Neck thin, all bones easily felt. Neck meets shoulder abruptly, shoulder bones felt easily, angular.

Dorsal spine of withers prominent and easily felt.

Ribs can be seen from a distance and felt with ease. Belly tucked up.

Backbone prominent, can feel dorsal and transverse processes easily.

Hip bones visible and felt easily (hock and pin bones). Little muscle cover. May be cavity under tail.

2 Moderate

Some muscle development overlying bones. Slight step where neck meets shoulders.

Some cover over dorsal withers, spinous processes felt but not prominent.

Ribs not visible but can be felt with ease.

Dorsal and transverse processes felt with light pressure. Poor muscle development either side midline.

Poor muscle cover on hindquarters, hip bones felt with ease.

3 Good

Good muscle development, bones felt under light cover of muscle/fat. Neck flows smoothly into shoulder, which is rounded.

Good cover of muscle/fat over dorsal spinous processes withers flow smoothly into back.

Ribs just covered by light layer of fat/muscle, ribs can be felt with light pressure. Belly firm with good muscle tone and flattish outline.

Cannot feel individual spinous or transverse processes. Muscle development either side of midline is good.

Good muscle cover in hindquarters, hip bones rounded in appearance, can be felt with light pressure.

4 Fat

Neck thick, crest hard, shoulder covered in even fat layer.

Withers broad, bones felt with firm pressure.

Ribs dorsally only felt with firm pressure, ventral ribs may be felt more easily. Belly over developed.

Can only feel dorsal and transverse processes with firm pressure. Slight crease along midline.

Hindquarters rounded, bones felt only with firm pressure. Fat deposits evenly placed.

5 Obese

Neck thick, crest bulging with fat and may fall to one side. Shoulder rounded and bulging with fat.

Withers broad, unable to feel bones.

Large, often uneven fat deposits covering dorsal and possibly ventral aspect of ribs. Ribs not palpable. Belly pendulous in depth and width.

Back broad, unable to feel spinous or transverse processes. Deep crease along midline bulging fat either side.

Cannot feel hip bones, fat may overhang either side of tail head, fat often uneven and bulging.

Half scores can be assigned where donkeys fall between scores. Aged donkeys can be hard to condition score due to lack of muscle bulk and tone giving thin appearance dorsally with dropped belly ventrally, while overall condition may be reasonable.

Copyright The Donkey Sanctuary
Reproduced with the permission of the Donkey Sanctuary

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