It’s not always visually obvious when a horse is getting a little too fat or too thin, and it’s not unusual for owners to show bias when assessing their horses’ conditions. In one 2011

British study, for example, researcher­s classified eight out of a sampling of 15 pleasure horses as overweight, while their owners tended to rate them closer to ideal.

Rather than relying on your eyes and memory to keep track of your horse’s body weight, you can use objective measures to record changes over time. Here are three common methods that are easy to apply on the farm:

• The body condition score (BCS) system, developed by Don Henneke, PhD, uses a visual and hands-on appraisal of six body areas where fat accumulate­s—along the neck, around the withers, over the ribs, behind the shoulder and over the rump and tailhead. Using specific criteria, horses are assigned a number on a scale from 1 (poor) to 9 (extremely fat).

For more informatio­n on how to use the BCS system, including photograph­s, see “BCS: A Useful Tool” (EQUUS 377).

• Measure and calculate your horse’s weight with a vinyl tailor’s tape. Start by measuring the length in inches from the point of your horse’s shoulder, along his side, to the point of his buttock. Then, measure his girth circumfere­nce by wrapping the tape around his body just behind the elbow and over the highest point of his withers. Then plug your two measuremen­ts into the following equation: body weight = (girth2 x length) / 330.

This method is not as accurate as the results you would get on a weight scale in a veterinary hospital, but if you do it consistent­ly once a month or so, it will alert you to changes in a horse’s weight.

• Use a weight tape to track changes. A weight tape is like a tailor’s tape, with measuremen­ts marked in pounds. To get a measuremen­t, wrap the tape around the horse’s barrel, just behind the elbows. Always pull the tape snug against the skin.

A weight tape is not as accurate as a weight scale, but it can help you identify and track weight gain or loss. Consistenc­y is important to getting usable results. Always check the horse’s weight at the same time of day and under the same conditions. After a workout, for example, a sweaty horse may measure less than he will after he cools down and drinks his fill.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States