Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Horse Body Condition

Finally, spring is here! Unfortunately today is not a day conducive to being outside as we currently have a combination of freezing rain, sleet and snow with the temperature barely above freezing. But according to the calendar it’s officially spring and I’m so ready to head out on the trails with my horse. I realize that much as I would love to have the weather to spend long hours in the saddle, neither my horse nor myself are ready to do that yet.

I think the pair of us can be considered “couch potatoes” because it’s been easy for me to sit inside and not venture out for daily walks while the weather has been so bitterly cold; the horses haven’t had to do much except walk from the hay bale to the water fountain and back. There have been very few times when I’ve seen them running and playing for the sheer joy of it.

So I’m going to have to take it easy on both my horse and myself as I get out to enjoy the warmer weather. It wouldn’t be doing my gelding any favors to stress his out-of-shape muscles and tendons with a drastic, sudden exercise regimen, any more than I would enjoy it.

Horse Body Condition Chart
I also have to say that all of our horses have weathered the cold weather rather well. My gelding, Will, in particular looks as though he could be about 12 months pregnant with twins! In trying to judge what his body condition is as opposed to what it should be, I looked up a body condition chart and have included it here. Body condition is rated on a scale by the numbers 1 through 9:

1--Horse is thin, emaciated.
2--Very thin.
3--Thin, with ribs and backbone easily discernible.
4--Moderately thin with a faint line of ribs discernible.
5--Moderate with ribs not discernible, but they can be easily felt.
6--Moderately fleshy with fat around the tailhead and fat beginning to be deposited along the sides of the withers, behind the shoulders, and along the sides of the neck.
7--Fleshy, often with a crease down the back.
8--Fat with a crease down the back and a noticeable thickening of the neck.
9--Extremely fat with bulging fat in areas like the tailhead, along the withers, behind the shoulders, and along the neck.

Researchers say that the ideal body weight would be number 5 for most uses that we put our horses through. Careful monitoring can avoid letting a horse get either over- or underweight which is important because it takes time to adjust their weight, either up or down. A sudden change in diet could also lead to colic and/or laminitis.

I guess, in reviewing the standards, Will isn’t really overweight as I can feel his ribs if I press in on his sides, and he doesn’t have fat deposits on his neck, behind the shoulders and on the tailhead. Also, his coat is dappled, which for a non-grey horse suggests he's in good health. His biggest problem is the hay belly which the spring exercise should take off. It’ll be fun getting both of us back into shape!

No comments: