Make sure you keep your horse healthy with our advice from Country & Stable experts on checking your horse is the right weight. Find out more now…
Is Your Horse The Right Weight?
Horses are complex creatures that need expert care and attention. So, how can you be sure that yours is the healthiest weight it can be? Read on to find out how you can tell if your horse is overweight or underweight, and what to do about it…
All riders and equine lovers feel that they know what their horse wants. However, when it comes to health, we need more than just intuition to make sure our horses are as healthy as possible.
Your horse’s weight plays a huge part in their overall wellbeing. If you are worried about whether your horse is overweight or underweight, your first call should be to a vet or horse nutritionist to get some professional care. However, we thought we would help you get a better idea of where you stand with your horse’s weight and give you a point in the right direction…
Is my horse overweight?
Being overweight can pose serious risks to your horse. In the wild, horses would eat a large amount of food to build up fat for the winter when food is scarce and temperatures are low. Today, our horses in the stables don’t necessarily face this ‘lean’ period, and can sometimes actually gain weight during winter.
If your horse is overweight, it may be more likely to develop laminitis and EMS, plus will have increased pressure on its joints, heart and bones. It may also result in poor fertility. For young horses, life-long issues can be caused by being overweight, including weak joints and bones, so it is important to get your horse’s weight right from the start.
There are a few signs you can keep a look out for if you are worried that your horse may be overweight. Fat can be seen building up under the mane, along the withers and backbone and over the ribs – you should be able to feel but not see your horse’s ribs.
If you think your horse is overweight, do not rush into shedding pounds off them, as if your horse gets too hungry, it might develop an ulcer. Call in a nutritionist for advice unique to your horse, though you may wish to start by replacing a third of your hay with a low energy chaff or reducing portion sizes.
Is my horse underweight?
A severely underweight horse can be an upsetting sight. Older horses may find it more difficult to maintain their weight, so as your horse ages, make sure you adapt its diet to keep it at a healthy level. It is important to find out why your horse is losing weight, as there may be a serious underlying health condition at play. It could be that your horse has teeth problems that are making chewing difficult, or it could be stress, worms or ulcers reducing its appetite.
Nursing mothers may also need more food, while particularly hot temperatures can also cause weight loss. If your horse is underweight, it could be missing out on essential nutrients, so it needs to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further problems.
Your horse may not be shockingly underweight, but you should still bear in mind signs that they are losing weight. Your horse should not look or feel overly bony and ribs should not be visible. If your horse is lacking in muscle definition, or you can feel or see bones along its withers and hips, you may want to get a vet’s advice. If your horse is underweight, you can start by increasing the amount of hay available as forage, while high oil feeds can also provide more energy.
If your horse is an ideal weight, then you want to make sure it stays that way! One way you can do this is to ensure you get into good feeding habits. A horse should be fed between 2% and 3% of its body weight, so take care when measuring your portions to ensure you give an accurate amount of feed. Hay is great for your horse’s digestive system, so make sure it is readily available, along with plenty of water.
How to check your horse’s weight
If you want to check up on your horses weight yourself, there are a few things you can do. If you have horse scales, then you can easily keep track of your horse’s weight, though this may not be an option.
A weigh tape can help you calculate your horse’s weight, though body scoring is the most frequently used method. There are a few systems used, such as the Henneke Body Condition Scoring system, but they are all based on the same basis. By examining key areas of your horse’s build to locate body fat, the Henneke system assigns a ‘score’ from 1 – 10, ranging from emaciated to obese. A score of 5 is ideal, though your horse can still be considered healthy between 4 and 7.
We hope that this has given you some practical advice to help you keep a lookout for signs that your horse is overweight or underweight. If you are worried or would like more information, call your vet to make sure your horse is as healthy as possible!
About the Author:
Country & Stable are equestrian experts based in the UK and sell a high-quality range of horse riding equipment. With over 68 years of equestrian experience in the team, Country & Stable is dedicated to ensuring the best for horses and riders.
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