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I have a 15 year old haflinger gelding, and his weight varies a lot. One day he’s at the perfect weight and then another day he’s either under or over weight. Is this just something common with the breed? Today I noticed that he is looking underweight, I could see his ribs a bit. I haven’t exercised him for about 4 days because of the weather I have had, yet somehow he has lost weight. Any ideas on why this is happening or suggestions on how to maintain his weight?
 

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Horses are individuals and should be treated as such. Just like I do not like to assume that a horse will have a specific personality because of its breed, I do not like to assume that a horse will be an easy or hard keeper because of its breed.

Pictures would be helpful. Although body score is best determined in-person and hands-on, there are many knowledgeable people on this forum that can give you an estimate or range. A veterinarian can also body score your horse.
To accurately body score a horse, one must look at the entire body, not just the ribs. There are many different types of body scores, but almost all of them use at least 5 different points on the horse: neck (crest), withers/shoulders, back, ribs, and tail head. The below body score uses 9 points. Looking at just the ribs will give an inaccurate score. Many things determine if a horse's ribs show, not just weight/fat: breed (e.g. Thoroughbreds are a breed that commonly shows ribs even at a healthy weight), movement (e.g. standing versus in-motion), muscle loss (e.g. old(er) horses or metabolically-challenged horses), et cetera.
The ideal score for an average horse is 4.5 to 5.5. The ideal score for actively breeding horses should be at least 5.5 but no more than 7. Horses that are going into or in winter should be at the higher end of healthy, especially when not blanketed.
Although not ideal, horses change shape all the time through weight and condition. These changes, however, take time, more than one day; it is difficult for a horse to go from legitimately overweight to legitimately underweight day-to-day. A thorough veterinarian check-up may be helpful to rule out any medical conditions.


A general rule of thumb is that a horse needs approximately 1.5% of its current weight or 2% of its ideal weight in forage (grass and hay) per day, whichever is higher. This rule is very rough; individuality, weather, exercise, et cetera, varies the amount. It is best to frequently body score your horse and adjust higher or lower based on needs. Some horses cannot maintain their weight on forage alone and need concentrates (formulated bagged food that is not forage). Most horses cannot meet their nutritional requirements (besides calories) from forage alone and need either a ration balancer or supplements.

You must be flexible with your horse's diet. In the fall and winter, some horses need extra calories, either from extra forage or a concentrate. In the spring and summer, that extra food may not be needed; some may even need a restriction. If you feed your horse the exact same way all-year-round, your horse may lose or gain weight, especially in the wrong season. The exception is easy-keepers. My horse is an easy-keeper. She has free-choice grass and hay all-year-round and regulates herself very well. All she gets is a custom mineral supplement. Even in the winter or when worked seven days a week, she does not need anything more.
 
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