Sunday, October 9, 2011
Body Condition Scores
Body condition has been on my mind and in my 'topic' bank ever since the fall rains then sunny but cool days hit Virginia. We have lush grass in our pastures, and in every conversation with the riders I know, the word 'fat' is used to describe our horses. Often I am the one using the word 'fat' because my horses, especially the pony, are roly poly. (This is not a photo of my pony--just one I borrowed from google images.) They don't get enough exercise and are not penned in dry lots, so they graze constantly with no 'off switch' (think Labrador Retrievers and the fallacy of self-feeding.) If this was spring, I would be limiting their intake for fear of founder, but everyone assures me that since my horses have been grazing (guzzling)all spring and summer and since the fall grass does not have the burst of nutrients, they will not founder. They'll just get, well, fatter until winter sets in, and when the vet comes, he will shake his head and will not give them an optimal 'five' score.
Lush grass and body condition are also on my mind because I just came back from five days in Colorado. We flew from Atlanta to Denver, and for at least half the trip, the clear skies allowed me to see and be amazed at how dry and brown the parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Colordo were that we flew over. And I mean brown. Not a splotch of green unless it was an irrigated circle. Fort Collins and the foothills where my brother lives are also dry and unless the pastures are irrigated or along a river or stream, they are brown. I saw a lot of horses. Most were pastured in small fields that had been grazed to dirt. The horses looked good and would probably have been rated 'five,' but I also saw many that seemed thin and listless. Horses are grazing creatures, and if there is nothing to pick at (and they are penned up so they can not move to better grazing like wild horses) it is not optimal either. I also know that when there is no grass, hay is in short supply and people don't have extra money due to the economy, more horses will be neglected and/or dropped off at rescue farms.
Too lush, too dry--neither is optimal, but as always, we horse owners do the best we can with the land, weather and conditions. My challenge is also finding enough time to ride. I'm teaching four courses this semester and traveling to promote my books along with the regular chores reguired by animals and home. Lately we've had great weather, and I'm trying to ride at least three mornings a week--but that's not enough to get my horses from fat to fit.
Do you have challenges to achieving the body condition score that you would like for your horses? Or are you able to balance exercise/nutrients to have that optimal fit horse? I'd love to hear your comments!
(On another matter, Dunslidin please email me at alison@alisonhartbooksdotcom re: Risky Chance giveaway.)