Loss of body condition is one of the most common problems an owner encounters with a geriatric horse. This is especially true with the ‘hard-keeper’ breeds, such as Thoroughbreds. Older horses cannot easily gain lost weight and become more susceptible to disease and cold when thin. The main causes of poor body condition are poor teeth, parasitism (worms) and reduced gut function. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to provide further advice on these conditions and ways to control or prevent them.
It is as equally important that the geriatric horse should not be allowed to become fat. Obesity also causes problems for the older horse in that it can make arthritis worse, lead to laminitis and stress other body systems.
Typically horses can be graded on their body condition on a scale of 0 to 5. 0 being very poor and 5 being very fat. A similar scale is employed for donkeys. A horse should be maintained between 2 and 4.
For a horse not under veterinary supervision a condition score below 2 is unacceptable. The horse should not be worked and should be placed on a sufficent and appropriate feeding programme to raise its condition score.
For more information, see our Nutrition Section
Horses should not be allowed to reach a condition score of 5. They should be placed on a restrictive diet.