How to Evaluate Your Horse’s Weight
Spring has sprung and it is time to evaluate how your horse made it through the winter and revise your feeding program for the coming spring and summer months. Your horse may be an easy keeper that now needs to be monitored on the new spring grass, a hard keeper that did not come through the winter as well as you expected, or a horse going back into training with increased nutrition requirements. Before you make changes you will need to evaluate your horse’s body condition.
Body condition scoring is an easy method you can utilize throughout the year to see if your horse’s condition changes over time. Once you determine your horse’s body condition you can revise your feeding program as needed. Keep in mind, your horse’s body condition level can depend on a number of factors such as age, temperament, metabolism, level of work, breed, and current or past injuries or illness.
What is your horse’s body condition score?
Body condition scoring is based on a 9-point scale, with one being poor and 9 being obviously obese. Where your horse stores fat is an indicator of body condition. When evaluating your horse’s condition there are some key areas to pay attention to. Look for fat deposits along the neck, withers, backbone, tailhead, flanks, shoulders, the area where shoulders blend into the neck, and along the ribs. It is important to not only use your eyes, but your hands when evaluating these areas.
What is the ideal body condition for your horse?
In general, a score of 5 is considered good, but there are some cases where a leaner or fatter condition may be desirable. Studies have shown that broodmares with a higher score had higher conception rates than mares with a lower score. With older horses it may be more beneficial if the horse has a higher score to create a buffer for times of stress and illness. However, if your older horse suffers from arthritis or laminitis he or she may do better without extra weight. Performance horses can vary in range depending on the discipline. Polo, eventing, race, and endurance horses might be fit with a lower body condition score of 4, while a dressage, hunter, or jumper may be fit with a score of 6.
It is important to work with your veterinarian and trainer to determine the best condition for your individual horse.
Click here to download a body condition reference chart.