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Diagnosing and treating horses in poor condition

Your horse's condition refers to it's weight, coat, hooves and overall health.

Condition is a term that covers a wide variety of aspects. In general, it refers to how healthy or in shape your horse is. A horse in good condition has a beautiful coat, strong hooves and well-developed muscles. On the other hand, a horse in poor condition may be underweight, weak with a dull coat, have a lackluster mane and tail or unhealthy hooves.

Nursing an unhealthy horse takes a lot of time and, most importantly, a planned strategy. Read on to discover how to care for a horse in poor condition:

Horses in poor condition can't perform their best.Horses in poor condition can’t perform their best.

Estimating your horse’s condition
The Henneke horse body condition scoring system is a quick way to assess your equine’s health. To use this system, apply pressure to the horse’s neck, withers, shoulder, ribs, loin and tailhead. Score each part according to how fat or emaciated the area is. A low score equates to a weak, thin area and a high score represents a fat one. Averaging these numbers gives you a single grade to represent your horse’s overall condition. Most individuals, veterinarians and institutions use a scale of 1 through 9, where one means poor, 9 means extremely fat and 5 is moderate.

To get an accurate assessment, Habitat for Horses explains, you need to do more than run your hand over the equine’s body. You need to apply a good amount of pressure, almost like giving your horse a massage, to truly determine the amount of fat in the area.

“Athletic horses are naturally thinner than others.”

According to Oklahoma State University, being in good condition means different things for different horses. Athletic horses are naturally thinner than others, but visible ribs are a good indication that your horse could use a little extra care. Still, weight alone is not always an accurate indicator. Horses at a healthy weight can still have a lackluster coat or unhealthy hooves.

Helping horses in poor condition
If your horse has a low score or otherwise appears to be in poor condition, the first thing to do is to check its feed. Malnutrition is a common cause of weight loss, and the feed you use might not provide the vitamins and minerals your horse needs. Even supposedly high-quality hay sometimes lacks vital nutrients, or your horse may need a little extra to support its health.

In these cases, you can supplement your equine’s diet with all-natural horse products that aid in a variety of health-related areas. Supplements to aid nutrient digestion include vitamins like ascorbic acid and natural probiotics. Healthy hoof and coat support comes from a variety of vitamins such as A, E, biotin and methionine along with protein and fatty acids.To maintain healthy blood counts, horses may need additional iron and B vitamins.

If your horse’s diet is up to par, he or she might not be eating enough or properly digesting meals. A horse digestive aid might help, but you should also check for other weight loss factors like poor dental hygiene. It’s hard for a horse with bad teeth to eat, as most of the feed simply falls out of its mouth. This is especially common among older horses.

“Check for parasites after evaluating feed and teeth.”

After checking your horse’s food and teeth, you need to check for parasites. Send a fresh fecal sample to a veterinary lab to test for eggs. If your horse does have parasites, a veterinarian will design a deworming program based on your horse, the number of other equines on your farm and your geographic location. However, according to American Association of Equine Practitioners, a negative result for one horse doesn’t mean the animal has no parasites. It’s best to test multiple horses at once for a more accurate diagnosis.

Additionally, your horse might suffer from a medical situation preventing him or her from adequately absorbing nutrients. It could simply be a vet-prescribed medication – according to The Horse, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can affect the gastrointestinal tract or otherwise result in loss of appetite. If it’s not a medication, the problem could be related to a particular disease like colic or colitis, persistent ailments like ulcers and tumors or chronic issues like melanoma, lymphoma, liver or kidney disease. In these instances, you’ll need to work with a vet to treat the underlying condition before your horse’s condition will improve.

Even if your horse is at an optimal weight, a dull coat and bad hooves are still possible symptoms of poor condition. You need to discover the root cause, which may require working with your veterinarian. Once you identify the reason for your horse’s condition, the two of you can create a way to treat it.

Finish Line makes a variety of vitamin, mineral, and botanical blend supplements for gastric health, hoof support, joint health and more. Check them out at the Finish Line website, www.finishlinehorse.com.