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Equine body conditioning

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Equine body condition chart  
1 Poor. Extremely emaciated; spinal processes, ribs, tailhead, tuber coxae and ischii projecting prominently, no fatty tissue can be seen.
2 Very Thin. Emaciated; slight fatty covering over base of spinal processes; transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded; spinal processes, ribs, tailhead, tuber coxae and ischii prominent; withers, shoulders, and neck structure faintly discernible.
3 Thin. Fat buildup about halfway on spinal processes; transverse processes cannot be felt; slight fat covering over ribs; spinal processes and ribs easily discernible; tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually; tuber coxae appear rounded but easily discernible, tuber ischii not distinguishable; withers, shoulders, and neck accentuated.
4 Moderately Thin. Slight ridge along back; faint outline of ribs discernible; tailhead prominence depends on conformation -- fat can be felt around it; tuber coxae not discernible; withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin
5 Moderate. Back is flat (no crease or ridge); ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt around tailhead and area beginning to feel spongy; withers appear rounded over spinal processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.
6 Moderately Fleshy. May have slight crease down back; fat over ribs spongy; fat around tailhead soft; fat beginning to be deposited along the side of withers, behind shoulders, and along sides of neck.
7 Fleshy. May have crease down back; individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat; fat around tailhead soft; fat deposited along withers, behind shoulders and along neck.
8 Fat. Crease down back; difficult to feel ribs; fat around tailhead very soft; area along withers filled with fat; area behind shoulder filled with fat; noticeable thickening of neck; fat deposited along inner thighs.
9 Extremely Fat. Obvious crease down back; patchy fat appearing over ribs; bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders, and along neck; fat along inner thighs may rub together, flank filled with fat.

"The amount of grain needed varies greatly from horse to horse, according to his activity level, metabolism and temperament."

How hungry is

"How much should I feed my horse?" is the question horse owners ask most often.

Here are the simple answers:
Hay -- as much as they want.
Grain -- as much as they need.
Mineral supplement -- what the label says.

Remember, above all, it's best to feed a horse as much good-quality, long-stem forage as possible.

"Good-quality forage" is pasture or hay that contains at least 8 percent protein, and no more than 42 percent acid detergent fiber, and is free of weeds, dust and mold.

The next step is to look at your horse and assess his body condition, according to the chart. From there, you can determine the proper energy level.

If your horse is unable to maintain a moderate body condition score or energy level on forage alone, then feed a grain-based ration. The amount of grain needed varies greatly from horse to horse according to his activity level, metabolism and temperament. So, watching his body condition is vital.

A horse not receiving an adequate intake of energy or protein will exhibit lack of energy or will be under-conditioned.

Therefore, evaluating body condition and energy level of individual horses is the best way to determine how much forage and grain to feed each one.

The final step is deciding on mineral intake.

Unlike protein and energy, there is no clear, obvious correlation between adequate mineral and vitamin intake and body condition. Nevertheless, mineral requirements are important. Fortunately, feeding minerals is not complex.

As a rule of thumb, if you are feeding less than five pounds per day of a fortified grain mix, or plain oats, your horse requires an additional mineral supplement, such as Southern States Equimin, added daily to the diet.

If your horse needs no grain to maintain its body condition, Equimin should be added to a small amount of grain--just enough to stimulate intake of the supplement. Horses consuming more than five pounds of grain mix per day can have Equimin offered free-choice.

Read the next horse nutrition article on Colic: Preventing with Proper Food Source.
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