Patty Lasko: Day 22

Day 22’s Challenge program has Clair Thunes, PhD, giving us tips on checking our horse’s body condition score. I don’t know about you, but I’m just glad it’s not asking me to take my body condition score! Ha! My horse and I are kind of the same?short, round and easy keepers. We both need to eat fewer calories and get more exercise. We’re always working on it.


Several years ago, we did an article with top equine nutritionist and dressage enthusiast Mary Beth Gordon, Ph.D. She said, “Dressage is all about training the horse and creating communication and harmony. We work so hard on building strength in our horses, but so many dressage horses are overweight, we never see those beautiful muscles.”

She said that an easy keeper, like my horse, can naturally have a body condition score of seven or eight. “This is where many dressage horses end up, but it’s not a healthy place.” She advises consulting a vet about your horse’s weight and using a weight tape to get an idea of your starting point for weight loss. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it!

Dr. Gordon shared these tricks for weight loss: Many horses maintain their weight on free-choice grass or hay, but you can take your horse’s allotment of two flakes and spread it all over a dry lot, for example, so he has to work for every little piece and it lasts a lot longer. You can feed hay in mini-meals, so the overweight horse isn’t getting quite as much. Cut even more calories, she suggests, by switching from alfalfa hay to moderate-quality grass hay.

Research conducted by Dr. Gordon’s team at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech found that out of 300 horses, 51 percent were overweight, with 19 percent qualifying as obese. Most were being fed a small amount of concentrated feed. These horses were overweight because all of the factors of weight management, like the content of the food, how much food and how much exercise, weren’t being taken into consideration.

“Do yourself a favor and keep your horse lean,” says Dr. Gordon. “Fat and shiny isn’t the healthiest place for him to be. Sweat is good thing for a horse.”

I guess it’s the same for us humans, too – less calories and a healthy amount of sweat is a good thing, even in winter.

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