What is Your Horse’s Body Condition?
By Purina Canada
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?
Adequate evaluation of your horse’s body condition is extremely important, as it allows you, notably, to provide it with a diet designed specifically for its needs.
For most horse owners, assessing body condition often comes down to a subjective description, such as good, not bad, or bad, which leaves a lot of room for error. To avoid these approximations, a reliable and precise method exists for assessing your horse’s body condition: The body condition scoring system. Developed in the early 1980s by Dr. Don Henneke, of Texas A&M University, this system is used internationally, by both veterinarians and nutritionists, as well as by horse owners. The body condition scoring system is based on an evaluation of the subcutaneous fat deposited in very specific locations on the horse’s body. Using the body condition scoring system allows you to determine whether your horse is too fat, too thin, or just right, and to make the necessary adjustments to its diet or amount of exercise to attain the desired body condition.
The horse’s body condition tells us whether or not the calorie intake from its feed ration is adequate. If the horse is ingesting fewer calories than it is expending, it will lose weight. This weight loss will result in a lower body condition and, more precisely, in a loss of fat. Conversely, if the horse is ingesting more calories than it is expending, it will gain weight and its body condition or, more precisely, its fat level will increase. Determining the horse’s subcutaneous fat deposits thus provides a good measurement of the calories that the horse is getting from its feed ration.
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