LIZZIE DRURY MSC RNUTR
Regularly monitoring your horse or pony’s weight and condition is very important. It should become an integral part of your stable management routine to regularly check the weight and condition score of your horse or pony. Weight taping and condition scoring go hand in hand and will enable you to pick up on any small changes as they occur throughout the year meaning you can very quickly adapt the feeding regime if needed.
A weight tape is a useful investment and if used on a regular basis, i.e. every 4 weeks, will enable you to notice the slight changes in weight that might not yet be visible to the eye. Weight tapes are not 100% accurate and the best way to get an accurate reading is to use a weighbridge. However, if you can weigh your horse in the same place, with the same tape, each time it will give you a rough estimate of weight and therefore the changes that are occurring.
The best way to weight tape is to put the tape at the base of the withers and pull it around the horse’s girth so that it is behind the elbows. Then take the reading. Remember to take into consideration your horse’s shape and breed when weight taping as this will have a bearing on how accurate the reading is.
This should be done alongside weight taping and will enable you to see how the muscle tone and fat deposits over your horse’s body are changing, depending on workload, feed available and the season. It involves really feeling your horse and getting to know him well, so that you can quickly identify any changes that are occurring. You will then give your horse a score of 1 – 9, with 1 being emaciated, 5 being ideal, and 9 being obese. Refer to our Body Condition Score Chart for further information on what to feel for when condition scoring.
Firstly the process of condition scoring involves taking the time to stand back and critically observe your horse. The second step involves feeling your horse with your hands. This doesn’t mean simply running your hands over his ribs! With practice, some light prodding will enable you to tell the difference between muscle and fat. Below I have outlined the main areas you are feeling when condition scoring your horse;
Step One -
Feel along the top of your horse’s neck and down to where the withers join the shoulders
Run your hands down both sides of the withers and continue along the back, feeling for the spinous processes or fat on either side of the backbone
Step Three -
Feel the quarters and tailhead for projecting bones or fat deposits
Run your hand down the neck and over the shoulder feeling for any fatty deposits, particularly behind the shoulder blade
Press firmly around the ribcage to assess the fat coverage over the ribs
FOR A PERSONALISED FEEDING PLAN FOR YOUR PERFORMANCE HORSE, PLEASE COMPLETE OUR SIMPLE AND FREE FEED ADVICE FORM. ALTERNATIVELY, IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR QUALIFIED NUTRITIONISTS FOR SOME IMMEDIATE ADVICE, PLEASE CALL OUR FEED ADVICE LINE ON 01622 718 487