Feeding is one of the most rewarding chores of horse ownership. But many horses, given the opportunity, will eat far more than they need, tipping the scale to an unhealthy balance. Excess pounds put a strain on virtually every body system.
To maintain the ideal weight is not always easy. Some horses are what we call “easy keepers”. They require minimal calories to maintain optimal body condition. Many adult horses and ponies, begin to retain unneeded weight due to reduced activity and a slowdown in metabolism.
Hazards of Obesity
Excess weight and over-nutrition have a number of potentially negative effects, including:
Increased stress on the heart and lungs.
Greater risk of laminitis or founder.
Increased risk of development orthopedic (bone and joint) problems in young and growing horses.
More strain on their feet, joints and limbs.
Worsened symptoms of arthritis.
Less efficient cooling of body temperature.
Fat build up around key organs.
Greater lethargy and more easily fatigued.
Evaluating Body Condition
A horse’s physical condition is rated on visual appraisal and palpation of six key confirmation points:
A- The amount of flesh or fat covering along the neck.
B- The withers.
C- Down the crease of the back.
D- At the tail head.
F- Behind the shoulder at the girth.
Score ranges from 1 – 9
1 – Poor
2 – Very Thin
3 – Thin
4 – Moderately Thin
5 – Moderate
6 – Moderately Fleshy
7 – Fleshy
8 – Fat
9 – Extremely Fat
What is the ideal weight for my horse?
Horses should be somewhere in the 5 to 6 range. If your horse is overweight, you’ll need to enforce sound nutrition management, become dedicated to a regular exercise program and use restraint when measuring the ration. Changes in both exercise and nutrition should be gradual. And remember to be patient. Weight reduction should be a slow, steady process. If you have any further questions and would like to speak to one of our doctors please feel free to contact our office. 505-869-2627