I'm having issues telling the difference between undermuscled and thin - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 10:45 AM Thread Starter
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I'm having issues telling the difference between undermuscled and thin

My paso fino was a rescue. He was left out in a small pasture, alone to starve to death. I bought him 2 months ago. The people that had rescued him had him for a year. They had been slowly building him back up to a healthier weight.
So my issue is that he's really under muscled. He pretty much has NO muscle. So when I look at his back and rear I can't tell if he's still not getting enough food or if this is a muscle thing. I'm working him slowly to build muscle but with it being winter it is really slow.
He's getting a grass/alfalfa hay mix. I couldn't tell you the flake quantity as I feed round bales. He also gets senior grain, though not every day. Perhaps I should make that an every day thing? I've been told to start feeding him beet pulp.
Here is Sundance from the side. I'm not sure how well you can see his condition. He does have a really thick winter coat right now.
This is them when I brought them home. Sundance is on the left. Sally (on the right) has fattened up and I would consider her to be a healthy weight right now.
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Last edited by furbabymum; 01-10-2012 at 10:49 AM.
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post #2 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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I know better pictures are needed. I will get them as soon as I can.
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post #3 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 11:30 AM
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Personally, my theory is that a horse should look the correct weight (no bones "sticking" out, etc) and only then should muscle be focused on. Weight/fat turns into muscle when a horse is put into work so the horse must have the proper amount of weight to turn into muscle before going into work.
Muscle doesn't magically appear on top of the horse like so many seem to believe, it comes from the weight the horse is already carrying.

From personal experience, after I got my mare, I got her down to the skinny side of things (she was dangerously obese) and tried putting muscle on her. It didn't work and I had no clue why. I kept working her and working her, hoping that muscle would should up. Eventually, the spring came along, she put on about 50lbs from the grass, and voila, suddenly I had a horse that looked like a muscled QH. It blew my mind. hahaha!

From the bottom picture (with him on the left?) I'd say he needs weight. His spine should not be protruding like it looks like it is. If he gained probably 30-50 pounds (and you can continue working him while he gains, he's not super skinny), I think you'd start seeing muscle much more quickly.
I bet if you just add about 2 pounds of beet pulp everyday, you'd see a really nice increase in his weight.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

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post #4 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 11:54 AM Thread Starter
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That is good to know. Thanks! He does have his hip bones and his backbone sticking out but at the same time he has that little rounded belly. I just had no idea what I was looking at. Thanks!!
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post #5 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 01:21 PM
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I honestly can't tell a thing from those pics. If you'd post a couple from the side, without saddle or anything else on the horse, it would be more effective. With a heavy winter coat it's still not easy to just LOOK, but if you'll use the scoring chart above and feel with your hands, you can score the horse pretty easily. Most charts say that between 4-6 is ideal, I prefer my horses to be more in the 5-7 range, closer to 7, especially in winter.

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post #6 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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These are the pics I had on my comp. I will take more as soon as I can. He does have his winter coat though. The main issues are this hip bones sticking out and his backbone. I'd say his ribs are at an appropriate place. Where you can feel them but you can't see them. That's what led me to believe it was a lack of muscle instead of weight.
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post #7 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 01:52 PM
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Ok, if his backbone and hips are still sticking out, then he's still pretty underweight. Have you either de-wormed him recently or had a fecal count done recently? He may be carrying a worm load from your description.

I'd read the instructions on the back or tag of the feed bag, that give you directions on how much to feed and figure out what he SHOULD weigh vs. what he DOES weigh (you can use a tape measure if you don't have a weight tape to figure that out) and then start feeding him up to where he'll gain the weight he needs.


Gigi is a horse I had sold and then took back because it was reported to me that she was being starved. This pic is approximately 1 month after I brought her back home, 12/3/11. I had taken her in to get her teeth floated and the vet weighed her at 810 lbs that day.

She SHOULD weigh around 1100 lbs so the difference is approx 300 lbs. I'm feeding Strategy GX, and the feeding instructions are to feed an Active Pleasure horse 1/3 to 1/2% of body weight per day in feed and to feed 1.2% of body weight in hay.

So.....to maintain her at 810 lbs (not what I want but for example purposes) I'd feed, 2 1/2 lbs to 4 lbs/day of Strategy and 10 lbs of hay.

To MAINTAIN her at 1100 lbs, I'd feed her 3.5 - 5.5 lbs/day of Strategy and about 14 lbs hay.

I started out feeding her 1lb Strategy 2X/day for 3 days, then I upped it to the same amount 3X/day, then went to 4X/day. After 2 weeks I had her on 2 lbs Strategy, 4X/day and after 3 weeks I added Amplify, a high fat supplement, to help her gain weight faster and safely.

Here's what she looked like on 12/30/11:

I'm giving her about a 3.5 BCS in this picture. I can see her withers a little to prominently, her hip bones still look like door knobs (they used to look like a coat rack) and if she moves right, you can still see her ribs a tiny bit. She's still got a ways to go, but she's gaining. I will be happy if I can keep her gaining all winter, and if she comes out in spring better than she is right now.

Sad thing is, when I bought this mare at an auction, she was thin. Not starved but thin. Here's what she looked like when I bought her:

And here's where she was when I sold her:

She was a little sucked up after a long trailer ride in this picture but I think you can see there's quite a difference.

Last edited by Dreamcatcher Arabians; 01-10-2012 at 01:55 PM.
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post #8 of 8 Old 01-10-2012, 01:56 PM Thread Starter
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Ok. Thank you. I should assuredly be feeding him more then. They told me they wormed him before I got him but that was 2 months ago so I will worm again. Thanks!
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