Body condition scoring in older horse with swayback - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By Endiku
  • 1 Post By aliliz
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-07-2013, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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Body condition scoring in older horse with swayback

Hello! I've been looking into body condition scoring because I want to keep an eye on my mare's weight gain. However, I'm having trouble following the standards listed online because of Lizzie's body shape. She's a Morgan in her mid to late 30's with Cushings. She also has a swayback, which she's had since I met her 8 years ago but has worsened. She's between 15.1 and 15.2 hands

I bought Liz 4 years ago and moved her to a boarding barn 2 years later. There were some problems there and she dropped a ton of weight and then gained some back. I moved her to a new barn in September and she's gained a lot back since then. At the second barn, I was able to get her weighed on a scale 2 years in a row. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to get her weighed this spring.

So I used this site for information:
The University of Maine - Cooperative Extension Publications - Bulletin #1010, Body Condition Scoring for Your Horse
Loin: I don't think Lizzie will ever have any sort of crease there because of the swayback. I'm not quite sure how to measure this on her.
Ribs: right now, I can't feel her ribs when I run my hand down her side. I can if I push with my fingertips, though
Tailhead: her tailhead blends smoothly into her body, but with the lack of muscle in her rump, it's kind of hard to tell what's what.
Withers: this is my main issue. She has high withers and a swayback, so her withers aren't ever going to blend smoothly into her body. She doesn't seem to have fat deposits around her withers.
Neck: her neck is much thicker and more solid than it used to be. I'm not sure if she has fat deposits there, though
Shoulder: her shoulder definitely blends more smoothly into her barrel now.

Pictures: I don't have many pictures of her at her thinnest... I couldn't bear to take pictures of her body then!

About 6 months after I bought her, Sep 2009. Pre- cushing's diagnosis/treatment. When I moved her, she looked basically like this with less of a potbelly and more back muscle

Spring 2011- at boarding barn that caused problems. She had been there for about 5 months. 808 pounds.

June 2011
2011-06-03 17.08.40.jpg

August 2011. Having her 10 minutes of grass
2011-08-20 15.06.33.jpg

October 2011. Ribs visible, could feel every single one with a quick rundown of my palm
2011-10-09 08.55.47.jpg

April 2012, after a bath. She was weighed about a month after this and was 852, so 44 pounds more than the year before.
2012-04-16 15.10.13.jpg

Then she lost some more weight. She looked about how she did in the October 2011 picture, maybe a little thinner.

This is after 2 months at the new barn. Can't feel ribs easily anymore. She's gained a few pounds since this picture and her butt and back muscle has improved.
2012-10-31 09.55.15.jpg

So, how do you think she looks? Also, what number on the body condition scoring system do you think she was at her worst? And finally, any advice on using this scale with a horse with a swayback?

Thank you!
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-07-2013, 08:36 PM
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At her worst I'd probably consider her to be a 2 or 2.5. I think the swayback was making it look worse than it was, although she definitely was lacking weight.

Now I'd probably say 4-4.5. She might even be a bit on the heavier side, judging from the cresty neck and shoulder padding. In an older girl in winter though, thats just fine IMO. She was probably in her best condition in that first picture, but she was younger then. I think you've done a fine job rehabilitating her from her sorry state in 2011.
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post #3 of 6 Old 02-07-2013, 08:54 PM
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She is much improved in the last pic. probably a 4-5 on the scale.
The scale works fine for sway back, they will add fat to the high wither bone.
I would get her some sr feed there should be something out there for cushings.
and just free feed some hay .
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-07-2013, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the replies! Endiku, the idea that the swayback was making her look worse was what I was having trouble with. I had trouble telling how much was the sway and how much was weight.

The first picture was taken in the first place I had her, where I was responsible for feeding/diet. At the second barn, I thought the BO knew more than she did and that was my huge mistake. The BO failed to tell me that Liz wasn't finishing her grain (she didn't like her supplements), so that was a huge cause of the weight loss. I came to realize that the quality of hay, while it smelled good, wasn't and didn't contain the proper nutrients.

Now, Liz gets 2 quarts am and pm of Blue Seal Sentinel Senior, which she does very well on. She also gets about 6 flakes of beautiful quality hay a day (not sure on weight, sorry). I would estimate it's about 20 pounds a day. She rarely finishes all of her hay during the day... she's super picky about her hay. When Liz loves a bale, though, she doesn't leave a scrap (if she's in an eating mood). She usually finishes her grain, but not always. I had her on 3 qts of the Sentinel Senior, but she seems to get overwhelmed by too much grain and was walking away from it for her hay. We reduced it to 2 qts and she finishes it every day now, although she sometimes picks at it throughout the day. She's not an easy horse to feed. I'd love to have her on molasses free beet pulp, but in the past, she wouldn't eat anything that's soaked. I might try it again in the spring when I don't have to worry about it freezing.

I'll get a new picture tomorrow so you can see where she is right now. Do you think she needs some more weight on her? If so, any other advice on getting some more pounds on her?
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post #5 of 6 Old 02-08-2013, 04:09 AM
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At her worst I would say 3.0 on a scale of 1/9

5.0 to a 5.5 on a scale of 1/9 now, I'd say.

She looks wonderful - and very loved and happy - good work!

Last edited by DRichmond; 02-08-2013 at 04:11 AM.
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post #6 of 6 Old 02-08-2013, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
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Obviously not the best pictures; I didn't want her blanket off too long with the snow starting!
Here's Liz as of today. Can't really see too much with her winter fuzzies
2013-02-08 09.20.04.jpg

2013-02-08 09.20.29.jpg
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