Immature oocytes synthesize a variety of proteins that include the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH). Brilliant cresyl blue (BCB) is a vital blue dye that assesses intracellular activity of G6PDH, an indirect measure of oocyte maturation. The objective was to evaluate the BCB test as a criterion to assess developmental competence of equine oocytes and to determine if equine growth hormone (eGH) enhanced in vitro maturation (IVM) of equine oocyte. Cumulus–oocytes complexes (COCs) were recovered by aspirating follicles <30 mm in diameter from abattoir-derived ovaries and were evaluated morphologically. Thereafter, COCs were exposed to BCB (26 μM) for 90 min at 39°C and selected based on the colour of their cytoplasm (BCB positive/BCB+ or BCB negative/BCB–). The COCs were allocated as follows: (a) IVM medium; (b) eGH group; (c) BCB–/IVM; (d) BCB+/IVM; (e) BCB–/eGH; and (f) BCB+/eGH. Then, COCs were cultured in vitro for 30 h, at 39°C in a 5%CO2 humidified air atmosphere. Cumulus-free oocytes were incubated in 10 μg/ml of bis-benzamide for 20 min at 39°C and nuclear maturation was evaluated with epifluorescence microscopy. Of the 39 COCs selected morphologically and subjected to BCB staining, 18/39 (46.2%) were classified as BCB+ and 21/39 (53.8%) as BCB– (P > 0.05). Maturation was not affected significantly by BCB classification, but the maturation rate was higher for oocytes that had been exposed to exogenous eGH versus controls (16/28, 57.1% versus 8/26, 30.8%, P < 0.05). In the present study, the BCB test was not useful for predicting competent equine oocytes prior to IVM. However, eGH enhanced equine oocyte maturation in vitro.