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Body Condition Scoring for Your Horse’s Health

April 26, 2018

Horses live a pretty charmed life nowadays. Unlike their ancestors, today’s equine rarely works from dusk till dawn pulling plows, carrying cowboys, or roaming the range. While that life of leisure and the occasional endurance ride through beautiful countryside might be nice, it can add up to health issues if a horse’s weight is affected.

Jackie Sigloh, receiver and horse expert at Coastal’s Redmond location on Highway 97, understands all things equine and is always eager to share what she knows with Coastal customers who have questions or concerns about their horse’s health.

“Your horse’s health comes down to overall appearance,” Jackie said while adjusting a saddle display. “Their weight, hair, hooves, and skin can tell you a lot.”

Rate Their Weight

We all know how to determine if we personally need to go on a diet or not, but with horses it can be a bit trickier. Some experts rate horses on a scale from 1 (poor) to 9 (very fat). These scales can be complicated. Thanks to a publication from Oregon State University Extension Service titled Keeping Your Horse Healthy, you can quickly determine your horse’s body condition under three, simple guidelines.

Of course, your horse’s body condition relies on a lot of factors, including breed, height, and structure. But overall, your horse should be in a moderate condition and maintain a consistent weight year-round. Extreme weight loss or gain could be a signal to call your veterinarian.

To rate your horse, give them a good once-over and place them into one of three categories.

Poor to Thin: Emaciated, ribs easily visible, tailhead prominent, little or no fatty tissue can be felt.

Moderate: flat back, some fat over ribs, slight crease or ridge of fat down the back may be visible, fat around tailhead.

Fat: obvious fat over and between ribs, fat around tailhead is soft, fat on neck, inner thighs, and shoulders, crease down back.

Jackie suggests starting with the ribs and hip line. If a horse is overweight, you’ll find bulges. Additionally, if their neck starts to get hard and crusty, it can be a sign of too much weight.

“You lose definition in the flank when they’re overweight,” Jackie added. “You’ll see more of a straight line rather than curvature.”

Losing Too Much Weight

Worming, feed, and teeth are all possible culprits when it comes to a horse that cannot maintain a healthy weight. See our article and video about horse worming. While you’re there, review the How and When of Horse Worming to learn the basics of farm and pasture management, including the importance of a fecal egg count, and maintaining a worming schedule.

If your horse is dropping feed, they may have bad teeth or need to have their teeth floated. Your veterinarian can help pinpoint issues and make recommendations, including adding nutrients to their feed.

Gaining Too Much Weight

Standing around all day stuffing their faces can add unwanted pounds. As with people, horses need exercise. However, if your horse gets too heavy, it’s best to call your veterinarian to assess their health and well-being before going on an all-day ride.

Hair and Hoof Condition

A horse’s coat can tell a lot about their overall health. A healthy horse will have a slick coat, not one that is dull or rough. Poor health can also be attributed to slow shedding or not shedding at all, as well as bald patches.

Hooves can also shed some light on a horse’s health. A healthy horse will have hard hooves with a slick, slightly waxy surface. Additionally, the frog should not be dry or cracked. See our article Farrier Tips for Cleaning Horse Hooves, which covers the parts of the hoof and how to inspect and clean your horse’s hooves.

Coastal is Your Equine Headquarters

Your Northwest owned and operated Coastal carries a full line or horse tack, feed, hoof guard, parasite control options, fencing, stock tanks, saddles, and a lot more. Swing by your store and go home with everything you need to keep your horse happy and healthy.