Carrying too much weight isn’t healthy for your pony, and it’s super-important that you keep a close eye on him to make sure he stays trim. A useful way to do this is by condition scoring, which helps you work out how much body fat he’s carrying.
Get hands on
Condition scoring can help you work out whether your pony is carrying too little or too much weight or if he’s just right. You can’t always tell just by looking at him, so it’s important to feel all over his body to check for areas where excess fat may be hiding.
It’ll help you to divide his body up into three parts and assess each of them separately…
- his neck and shoulders: can you wobble his neck easily, or is there extra padding that makes it feel thick and firm? Now run your hand down to his shoulder – does it feel smooth or can you feel a squishy pad of fat?
- his ribs and mid-section: you should be able to feel your pony’s ribs if you apply a small amount of pressure with your fingertips. Any extra padding is excess fat
- his quarters: stand at a safe distance behind your pony and look over his tail at his quarters – his spine should be the highest point. If there’s a gutter along his back and you can’t feel his hip bones, he’s overweight
Condition scoring can also help you spot if your pony isn’t carrying enough condition, and if this is the case his ribs and other bones will look and feel more prominent.
How does he rate?
You should rate your pony’s condition from 1-9, with 9 being obese and 1 being extremely thin. The ideal for your pony is a score of 5, and if it’s higher you’ll need to look at ways to safely reduce the number of calories he’s eating and increase the amount of exercise he’s getting. If he’s not carrying enough condition, get him checked by your vet and equine dental technician to make sure he doesn’t have any health issues, then look at what positive changes can be made to his diet.
Keep a note of the condition score, then assess your pony in 2-3 weeks’ time to see if there’s any change. Ideally, you should do this at least every 2-3 weeks, and taking a side-on photo of your pony at the same time will help spot and track any changes, too.
Pick up some tips
Why not arrange for an equine nutritionist to visit your yard? They can condition score your own pony and others on the yard and give you some useful tips to help you do this yourself in the future. They’ll also be able to offer you advice on correct diet and weight management.
To download a condition scoring chart, visit baileyshorsefeeds.co.uk/body-condition-scoring