On a regular basis people discuss their horse's weight and surprisingly
they find it puzzling. Naturally one would think the extreme ends of
the weight spectrum would be easily recognizable. This appears not to
be the case! If any ribs are showing, many are quick to declare that
their horse is under-nourished and too thin. The suggestion that ribs
showing equals improper weight is too simplified a conclusion.
would remember when the great "Secretariat' came to Woodbine Racetrack
and romped to a 6 1/2 length victory over a field of top contenders in
the Canadian International. His ribs were very evident and so was his
Without being a nutritional expert, people raise
foals, show performance horses and board horses as a business with
considerable success. The feeding of each horse is a very important
part of their involvement and requires an individual approach. The
youngsters often take a lot from their moms while nursing, and most
moms show it, but there are others that don't. Ribs on a broodmare
indicate that she is giving lots to her foal and not that she isn't
adequately being fed herself. Usually the mares feed is upped in
situations like this but it doesn't always show. Naturally foals should
be encouraged to eat grain as soon as they show an interest. The first
2-3 years of development lasts for the rest of their lives.
horses require a good amount of grain (14-16% protein) depending on
the workload they are doing. The fat performance horse is just like us.
They run the risk of breaking down and do not enjoy their work. The
lean horse moves easier, breathes easier, and performs easier. Lean is
not thin, it's tight, fit, and healthy. The coat should be shiny, their
eyes clear and their rump (motor) round and solid. The hind end of a
horse is an excellent gauge as to whether they are thin or not. The
croup should be round and the flank filled out - not flat or falling
off. If there is two golf balls showing on the top of the croup, this
horse is too thin. The ribs depend a lot on the conformation of the
horse. If they are well sprung they might look a little fat, but if
they are pear shaped they will appear thin.
Some breeds seem to
keep fat on air while others receive double the portion and still look
slight. A thoroughbred was being fed 22lbs. of grain a day for about 7
months just to get him looking decent. No wonder he became a handful to
handle. Fortunately he was being worked twice a day and settled into a
normal intake of 10-12 lbs of grain. His hind and shoulders were
beautifully muscled but he still showed a little ribs. One feed often
used is beet pulp but doesn't do anything for the working horse and is
like popcorn with little nutritional value. It might work to beef a
horse up to sell by the pound but a performance horse will just melt
away when he is asked to work with this kind of feed.
the marathon runner is very fit but not a candidate for a bathing suit
commercial. Also, the body builder looks great doing their routine, but
then has to sit down in the dressing room because of dehydration.
Appearance+performance+individual conformation gives us an indication of the correct weight and health of a horse - perhaps not as simple as we first thought!
Written By: John Emsley