Well spring is definitely here and summer is on the way. It’s this time of year we are getting our horses up to their peak condition and increasing their fitness. Whether you have a happy hacker, a retired friend or you are heading to Bramham next month it’s so important to keep all our horses in the right condition all year round. With all horses having such different nutritional and management regimes and requirements, finding the right one for you can often seem like a complete minefield. It’s not just about looking good – the right bodyweight is paramount to the health of our horses with conditions such as asthma and arthritis being more common in overweight horses. Now is a great time to try and make some changes as lighter nights mean we can spend more time with our horses and the ground is (usually!) on our side.
In this week’s blog I want to try and help you understand your horse’s current level of condition better and how you can monitor it throughout the year. ‘Condition’ encompasses both the amount of body fat your horse has and also their muscle mass. This is not fixed and will be different for individuals and probably change over the course of a year as normal. For example something wouldn’t be right if a 6 year old competition horse looked the same as a 20 year old retired thoroughbred. So what can you use to monitor this:
- Weightape – A weigh tape is a good way to monitor your horse’s overall weight. This does not differentiate between fat and muscle. You can do a simple measurement around the horse’s girth and withers as shown in this demonstration by Dengie:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMsKc1-3ms0 Advantages of using a weigh tape are they are cheap and easy to use. The disadvantage is they are quite unreliable, readings may vary depending on technique and user.
- Weighbridge – A weigh bridge is the most accurate tool for monitoring weight and is especially important in horses where weight is being proactively managed for health reasons. This can be used for serial monitoring and assessment of overall weight. We have a portable weigh bridge that we can bring to your yard and it is very easy to set up and use, as it is an astroturf like surface most horses walk on to the bridge first time. If you would like to arrange a visit for your yard please get in touch.
- Body Condition Score – Body condition scoring is a great way to assess muscle and fat coverage on your horse and is a good monitoring tool. If you are wanting to embark on a weight loss programme be aware horse’s normally lose fat internally before externally so do not be disheartened if this takes a while to change. Performing a body condition score is a skill, anyone can learn but practice takes perfect! Blue Cross have done a great video demonstration of how to do a thorough body condition score here:
- Blood tests – If you have a horse that is over or under weight and not responding to dietary and management changes sometimes extra veterinary tools may be required to ascertain why. In overweight horses we also have a blood test for a hormone called ‘adiponectin’ which is a beneficial hormone that is known to increase with weight loss so if you are wanting a more objective monitoring tool.
If you would like further veterinary guidance on a weight management programme for your horse please do not hesitate to contact us, we run a bespoke service that includes use of our weigh bridge at your yard, body condition scoring by a vet followed by an electronic report detailing recommendations based on your current management and what is possible for you to do.
Jess Timmins x