Feed & Nutrition

assessing you horse’s body weight without a scale, horse Body Condition Scoring Henneke Scale, how to use horse weight tape

If you have ever evaluated your horse’s ration or tried to calculate an appropriate dose of dewormer for a growing horse, you will know that accurate estimation of your horse’s body weight is important for meaningful results. While we all know that a mechanical or digital scale is probably the best way to evaluate the weight of your horse, not many of us have convenient access to one. Horse owners do have access to other tools for estimating the body weight of their horses. Weight tapes, for example, are inexpensive and readily obtainable at most feed stores.

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Horse owners have been wetting or soaking hay as a feed management practice for many years. Soaking hay for horses can be invaluable when feeding a hay that is a little dusty as a result of soil contamination or where it was stored in the barn. Horses that have allergies and are sensitive to the natural dust and particles in hay can benefit significantly from wetting or soaking hay.

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Donkeys are highly adaptable feeders. If given the opportunity, they will consume a variety of different grasses and shrubs to obtain sufficient nutrients. It is generally accepted that the donkey can exist with less food than a horse. Their efficient utilization of food makes donkeys easy keepers, but don’t let the term misguide you. It is important to take care in determining when and how much to feed as obesity is a major concern in modern domesticated donkeys.

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Horse owners know how important good nutrition is to the health and performance of their animals. They spend considerable time and money ensuring that their horses are provided with the nutrition they need to do a job and stay healthy. There is a great deal of debate in the equine industry today about feed and its safety or suitability for our horses.

Equine Cushing’s Disease, more correctly called Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a non-cancerous but progressive enlargement of the pituitary gland in the horse. It is estimated that 20 percent of horses over the age of 15 will develop PPID. Note that Cushing’s Syndrome in humans and dogs (when not due to giving too much steroidal medication) involves an actual tumour of either the pituitary or the adrenal glands, (either benign or malignant), whereas Cushing’s Disease in horses has a different cause.

Horse owners are familiar with the tragic pictures shared on social media of the emaciated horse rescued by the authorities, or the one that could not be saved due to its poor condition. Malnourished horses are a reality even in our affluent Western world. Sometimes these horses are the result of well-intentioned people trying to “save” unwanted horses, only to find they are unable to do so because of cost or scarcity of feed.

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We all want healthy horses with beautiful muscle tone, that are neither too fat nor too thin. In short, we want our horse to have the ideal body condition. But what is an ideal body condition and, especially, how does one evaluate it effectively?

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Riding Vactions in California with Jec Ballou