Body Condition Scoring Horses – a Hands-On Project!

Most of you met our old horse, Fred, in an earlier blog post I did. Well, I am happy to report that Fred is flourishing in his new home and we like to think that he likes it here quite well.

However, our temperatures have been getting quite cold, in the teens and  mid 20s for highs, and I was concerned with how well Fred was holding his weight. The snow cover has been consistent, so I knew he was not doing too much in the way of grazing. He gets about 1.75% of his body weight in hay each day along with a ration balancer, but with his age and the cold weather I wanted to see how he was really faring.  With the short daylight hours of mid winter fully upon us, it is hard to see his exact condition during the work week when we are gone during the day.

So last Saturday I went out to check on him during daylight hours and was pleased to see that he looked pretty good – pretty fluffy with all that winter coat – but still pretty good from where I was standing (about 10 feet away). I went into the pasture and put his halter on and began to feel over his ribs and topline. Contrary to what he looked like from a distance I determined that underneath all that hair, Fred had lost some weight. I could feel his ribs fairly easily and after palpating along his topline I could tell he was just starting to lose condition there as well.

Viewing him from the fence was one thing, but getting my hands on him was a different story and I realized we needed to change his diet and replace his ration balancer with some senior feed to get additional calories into him. We are in the process of transitioning him onto his new feed and so far he is doing great.

I learned a valuable lesson, though – when evaluating the body condition score of your horses (especially under all that winter hair) you have to get your hands on them! I now have a reminder set on my calendar to body condition score Fred every month. I don’t want to have any springtime surprises when all that hair sheds off!

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