Body Scoring & Weight Reduction

How to body score a horse

Accurately body scoring your horse is an important skill you need as a responsible horse owner. Body scoring involves assessing the overall condition of your horse. It is important to understand that a horse’s body condition score (BCS) is not just about how much the horse weighs but also HOW fat is distributed. Horses with fat deposited on their rump, back, withers (and particularly as a cresty neck) are vulnerable to diseases such as laminitis (an extremely painful inflammation of the hooves) and equine metabolic syndrome (similar to diabetes in humans).

Fat horse slim

 Modified from Fat Horse Slim, wwww.bluecross.org (Used with permission)

 

Accurate body scoring takes training and practice. The following links provide information about the BCS process or you can contact us to get help with learning how to body score. You can even send a photo of your horse to our trained horse assessors for an opinion of your horse’s BCS. You will need to take a photo from each side, the front and the back.

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/data/assets/pdf_file/0008/299402/Estimating-a-horses-condition-and-weight.pdf

Strategies for weight reduction

Unfortunately horses, just like some of us, have a bit of trouble controlling how many calories they take in each day.
Your pony or horse has a body score above 3/5. You need to act now in order to prevent your horse developing the diseases associated with being overweight. How do you do this?

The first thing you MUST do is keep feeding your horse. Starving a fat horse can kill it!!! So you need to keep feeding your horse but you will need to change what and how you feed it.

Follow these steps:

  • Take the horse OFF all pasture. Unfortunately all that lovely green grass is FULL of sugar. It would be like standing on a pile of fairy floss and just eating, eating, eating. You need to put the horse in a bare yard!
  • Invest in a hanging weight scale to measure your feed.
  • Supply low energy forage feed like low energy/long fibre hay or oaten chaff.
  • You need to supply 1.5% of your horse’s IDEAL body weight in this low energy forage. (see http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/299402/Estimating-a-horses-condition-and-weight.pdf for advice on what your horse should weigh). If your horse should weigh 400kg, he needs 6 kgs of forage per day. 
  • This forage needs to be provided over the entire day – preferably in a trickle feeding hay net or slow feeder. These innovations slow the horse’s consumption down and keep your horse occupied while they are confined. Feed as often as possible with largest amount provided before longest stretch of time without feed (usually night feed)
  • Also provide a low calorie vitamin and mineral balancer daily in a little chaff. A salt lick will not provide sufficient nutrients but you can include one in the yard to keep your horse occupied.
  • Start an exercise program. Exercise is the best way to keep your horse at a healthy weight.
  • Once he has got to less than 3/5 BCS you can start to let your horse out to graze –only at night. The grasses have less sugar in them at night. Some horses might still need to wear a grazing muzzle to control their intake, but only if the grass is long.

Unsure? Contact us for assistance. We are there to help you.

More Information

pdfHow fat is too fat by Dr Lesley Hawson
What is laminitis, and how can it be prevented or treated? (RSPCA Australia article)

http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-laminitis-and-how-can-it-be-prevented-or-treated_461.html

Why does your horses weight matter? (World Horse Welfare video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvDKgzWDS8I

Recognising the early signs of laminitis (World Horse Welfare video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdUHLjTzems