Absolute weight is not the only important criterion by which to evaluate the horse. Appearance and condition have always been used as indicators of fitness and health. This condition score system was developed in an attempt to standardize these descriptions and to allow for easier comparison and communication:
1. POOR Animal is extremely emaciated; spinal column is easily discernible, ribs; tailhead; bone structure of withers, shoulders, and neck easily noticeable; no fatty tissue can be felt.
2. VERY THIN Animal is emaciated; slight fat covering over base of spinous processes; transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded; spinous processes, ribs and tailhead prominent; withers, shoulders, and neck structure faintly discernible.
3. THIN Fat buildup about halfway on spinous processes; transverse processes cannot be felt; slight fat cover over ribs; spinous processes and ribs easily discernible; tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually; withers, shoulders, and neck accentuated.
4. MODERATELY THIN Slight ridge along back; faint outline of ribs discernible; tailhead prominence depends upon conformation, fat can be felt around it; withers, shoulders, and neck not obviously thin.
5. MODERATE Back is flat (no crease or ridge); ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt; fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy; withers appear rounded over spinous processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.
6. MODERATELY FLESHY May have a slight crease down back; fat over ribs spongy; fat around tailhead soft; fat beginning to be deposited along the side of the withers, behind the shoulders, and along the sides of the neck.
7. FLESHY May have crease down back; individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat; fat around tailhead soft; fat deposited along withers, shoulders, and along the neck.
8. FAT Crease down back; difficult to feel ribs; fat around tailhead very soft; area behind shoulder filled with fat; noticeable thickening of neck; fat deposited along inner thighs.
9. EXTREMELY FAT Obvious crease down back; patchy fat appearing over ribs; bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders, and along neck; fat along inner thighs may rub together; flank filled with fat.
Developed by Dr. R. Henneke and co-workers at Texas A&M University.