The difference between thin-thin and muscle-loss-thin?

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The difference between thin-thin and muscle-loss-thin?

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  • How to know if horse neck is skinny or lacking muscle
  • Should ribs be visible on an old horse

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  • 3 Post By loosie
  • 3 Post By tinyliny
  • 2 Post By Elana
  • 2 Post By Wallaby
  • 2 Post By riccil0ve

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    12-02-2012, 04:51 PM
Super Moderator
The difference between thin-thin and muscle-loss-thin?

As some of you know, Lacey became semi/mostly retired in October (she's ridden by a small lesson kid, at a walk, for maybe 15 minutes once a week but otherwise she's retired).

Now that it's been a couple of months, I've really been noticing her losing muscle and it seems like she's gotten "skinny".

However, I'm really not sure if that "skinny"-ness is due to her losing muscle in places that made her look more filled out, or if she's legitimately lacking nutritionally.
The main area I'm noticing is her ribs. When she has her coat flattened down (right after her blanket comes off), you can see them all when she breathes in. It's easy to feel them but you do have to gently press to get a good feel...

I've noticed other areas that seem to be "lacking" but I'm sure those are due to muscle loss: she doesn't seem as wide as she once did, her shoulders are less huge, her booty is less QH-y, etc.

Anyway, how does one work muscle-loss into their horse's body condition scheme?
She should be getting enough for what is (not) being asked of her and her activity levels are great (she spends at least 10 minutes each day running around like a maniac, bucking)... At least, she always came through the winter chubby when she was in work and eating less than this...

Thank you!

[also, she IS nearly 28 but that's no excuse. And she probably could use having her teeth done - they will be done in the spring :)]
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    12-02-2012, 05:09 PM
How do you factor muscle loss into 'condition scoring'? Learn how/why muscles may waste. IME unless it's 'sweeney' or such, it's generally the 'topline' muscles that are affected by lack of exercise. As you've no doubt heard me say before, just because a horse is showing a bit of rib doesn't mean they're necessarily too thin, but you say you can clearly see all Lacey's ribs, so I imagine she is indeed 'underweight'.

Teeth will definitely have a bearing & old horses can need them seen to more frequently - she's getting to the age that there's potential for a loose molar causing hassles. You also mention she's generally been plump - it's possible due to long term 'good condition', never getting a chance to use up those fat stores, that she is insulin resistant or such.
    12-03-2012, 01:32 AM
Super Moderator
I think in her case, the muscle loss is just due to the fact that she was in a really intense work-out program for a horse her age (3-4 1+hr rides/week, over really hilly terrain, all gaits) and that she typically builds muscle in a more bulky way...and then now she's not being ridden at all really so the bulky muscle is flattening out which seems weird to my eye...if that makes sense?
I'm not too worried about the muscle-loss itself since she's really returning to what she looked like (muscle-wise) 4 years ago when I bought her out of an 11 year retirement.
That was actually what made me wonder! "Good" thin or bad thin? I know my eye prefers a chubby horse so I'm probably biased towards any thin = "PANIC". Haha

She is insulin resistant. At least, my vet and I have chosen to treat her like she is IR given her history, fat pads in the summer, etc. We determined that the least expensive option (I'm a college student with very limited funds), as long as she doesn't show a need to be tested (ie, no signs of cushings, etc), we would just assume that she's IR and manage her as such.

Re: her ribs - that's something I forgot to clarify. She's one of those really wide barreled horses that can look somewhat ribby even when the rest of her says she's obese. Since the ribs aren't constantly visible, I was unsure. Her backbone still has a good layer of chub, her neck is still somewhat cresty, her butt is still really filled out, it's just those ribs that say she's thin.

Here's a picture, a la last week:


That's a good point about a loose molar - would there be any other signs to look for, if that were the case?
    12-03-2012, 02:39 AM
Mate! You're worried about THAT being too thin?? You need new eyes! While it's not a great pic for critique, I'm confident in saying she's definitely not thin.

Yes, some horses can be ribby and too fat & especially if they're IR/EMS, it seems.
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    12-03-2012, 03:15 AM
Super Moderator
Lacey looks awesome! She is doing so well. Stop worrying, dear.
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    12-03-2012, 09:01 AM
Green Broke
This horse is 28 and sound and you have stopped riding her? Why? Most older horses that are sound benefit from continued use on trails if nothing else!

I know of a horse that was used and liked it in his late 30's!!

This horse looks really good.
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    12-03-2012, 09:35 AM
Super Moderator

Thank you! I feel better now. Haha!

Elana - I WISH I was still riding her! :) However, she's not technically "sound" right now (she partially tore a suspensory in September) so we're in the midst of the "wait and see, is her body going to heal her?" period.
She's not really lame anymore (a slight head-bob does pop up very occasionally) but it's only been 3 months so far. In May, the vet and I will be reassessing and if things look good, I'm going to see about how she and her body feel about a little light work.
*fingers crossed*
Thanks. :)
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    12-03-2012, 09:41 AM
Originally Posted by Elana    
This horse is 28 and sound and you have stopped riding her? Why? Most older horses that are sound benefit from continued use on trails if nothing else!

I know of a horse that was used and liked it in his late 30's!!

This horse looks really good.
She is not sound. I know Wallaby didn't cover it in this thread, but Lacey did sustain an injury that Wallaby and her vet have decided she is just pasture sound, not riding sound.

Wallaby, she looks fine. She will certainly lose some muscle over the next several months, and you will notice her back, neck, and hip/haunches will "sink," but she won't be thin. And remember, it is actually better for a horse, especially a horse with soundness issues, to be a touch more on the thin side as opposed to overweight. Don't feel the need to bulk her up because she's losing muscle, you'll do her more harm than good.

When the vet was out this summer for Ricci, he commented that she was looking great and even a touch on the plump side. He warned me against letting her get any bigger and in fact thought she should lose a bit, considering the soundness issues we've been having.
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