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The Objective Approach to BCS: Body Condition Index

Updated: Apr 9

A recently published study developed a tool that can help simplify body condition assessment for horse owners!

Body condition scoring is an important part of assessing diet suitability and overall horse health, however, can be subjective due to the nature of the visual and manual assessment.

The use of the Body Condition Index can offer a more objective way to assess body condition score. The newest form of the BCI, as developed in the 2023 study, incorporates measurements of outer circumference of the horse’s body, ie; where fat is deposited, with factors such as body length and height.

Morphometric measurements required to represent overall outer circumference of the animal (cm):

  • Heart girth circumference: Similar to weight tape calculation, assesses subcutaneous fat deposited behind the shoulder

  • Belly girth circumference: To help reflect the amount of internal abdominal fat.

  • Mid-neck circumference: To assess fat deposition on the neck.

  • Body length: To help account for individual body size.

  • Height to the withers: To help account for individual body size.

Through mathematical analysis, researchers noted a highly significant correlation between BCI & BCS, suggesting a strong relationship between the two. As such, the resulting BCI can be used to objectively assign a body condition score to your horse!

Different correlations between different equine breeds likely result from differences in body shape, and allows for more individualized prediction of fat deposition, which is incredibly useful knowing how some breeds are more predisposed to becoming overweight easily.

The BCI was found to slightly overestimate the % body fat in leaner animals, and underestimate in more obese animals, but offers a great starting point that can remove some guesswork out of body condition assessment for the horse owner!


Potter SJ, Erdody ML Bamford N, Knowles E, Menzies-Gow N , Pippa K. Morrison P , Mc. Argo C, McIntosh BJ , Kaufman K Harris PA, Bailey SR. 2023. Development of a body condition index to estimate adiposity in ponies and horses from morphometric measurements Equine Veterinary Journal 2023: 1-10.




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