The Way of Horses: Evaluate Your Horse

By Eleanor Blazer Copyright @ 2018

Evaluate Your Horse A friend mentioned that she was hav- ing trouble keeping weight on her mare,

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Missy. Missy has always been an “easy-keeper”. I asked her a few questions which every horse owner should regularly review. 1. Age – it is frightening how quickly time passes. When I asked about Missy’s age my friend had to do some mental calculations. Based on when she got Missy – the year her oldest granddaughter was born, she decided the mare was 19. My friend was shocked when she realized Missy was becom- ing a “senior” horse. 2. Body Condition Score. My friend knew Missy was losing weight and by using the using the Henneke Body Condition Score we could assign a “score” to her condition. Horses are rated on a scale of 1 to 9. A horse with a score of 1 would have no body fat and be emaciated. A horse with a score of 9 would be extremely obese. A body condition score of 5 is considered ideal. This scoring would allow charting of Missy’s loss or gain history. It was determined Missy had a BCS of a 4. We estimated that Missy was probably a 6 when she was in her prime. 3. Dental care. Next I asked, “When was the last time Missy had her teeth looked at by a veterinarian or equine dentist?” This also took some thought. It may have been several years

since Missy last had her teeth checked. I asked if she noticed if Missy was dropping feed while she ate, or if she was having trouble chewing hay. My friend wasn’t sure as she boards and doesn’t feed the mare. That evening I received a call – Missy was in fact drop- ping grain and having trouble chewing hay. A dental appoint- ment with her veterinarian was scheduled. 4. Quality and amount of for- age. The equine digestive sys- tem is designed to utilize nutrients from forage. That forage must be provided in the quality and quantity a horse needs. The horse is also de- signed to be a “trickle-feeder” – they graze approximately 18 hours a day when in a natural state.

I asked my friend about

the type of hay that was being used at the stable. Because my friend boards she left the feed- ing up to the stable. She did know her contract states that Missy was to receive two flakes of hay in the morning, a flake at lunch and two flakes in the evening. She had no idea about the quality of the hay. I had her take a scale and

weigh a few flakes to get an av- erage weight, so we could de- termine how many pounds of hay Missy was receiving each day. Also to let me know the

color of the hay, how it smelled, if it had coarse stems or weeds, and if Missy was leaving some of the hay un- eaten.

She reported back that the

average weight of a flake was three pounds. Missy is receiv- ing five flakes of hay a day, so that worked out to about 15 pounds of hay a day. On average a horse

should receive 1.5% to 2% of their body weight in forage a

day. Missy should weigh about 1,000 pounds, which works out to 15- 20 pounds of good qual- ity forage a day. She was being fed on the light end of the rec- ommendation. The hay seemed to be of

good quality – it had a sweet smell, didn’t seem to have many stems or weeds and was a greenish/light tan color. But Missy seemed to be having trouble chewing as she was tip- ping her head to the side and

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dropping bits of wadded wet boluses of hay. I asked my friend to see if

the stable would allow Missy to have a second flake of hay at lunchtime and the evening meals. That would increase the daily amount to 20 pounds. My friend was willing to pay a little extra in board for Missy to have the additional hay. An- other option will be for my friend to buy hay and bring in

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