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Possible to have fit & pleasantly plump?

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  • Possible to have fit & pleasantly plump?

    This is definitely more of a horse care question, but I think eventers might have a better idea about this due to the fitness required for horse trials/events.

    We have a 10-year-old hackney pony cross that came to us last January. He just completed his first CDE (combined driving event) earlier this month and I'm wracking my brain as to whether his body condition is fine "as is" or whether I should try to get more weight on him.

    He is one of those horses (and I say horse as he truly is a pony-sized horse) that is just fit ALL the time. Never quits...I don't think we could find a bottom on him if we tried. This is our first hackney and apparently this is pretty typical for the breed, which is why he is such a CDE super star. He is also more of an "anxious" type; we joke that he never relaxes. He always wants to be doing something and is on the go, go, go. He's happiest when he's either on the trailer going somewhere or at a new place out for a drive.

    He's about 14.1 and weighs around 800 pounds. I'd say his BCS is around a 5...you can't see ribs but can easily feel them. He is always very svelte looking, even when he looks "round" for him. Great hair coat and hooves, dapples, great energy (LOL!). We finally paired him up with my retired horse in the barn and as turnout buddies and he seems very happy with his home life now. Nothing like watching him boss the 16.3 hand monster QH around.

    He is not a big hay eater and gets 2 lbs of Equine Senior twice a day plus SmartCalm and SmartDigest. He's out on good pasture about 8 to 10 hours a day. I tried supplementing with timothy and alfalfa forage (Triple Crown) and timothy and alfalfa cubes...no dice. What horse doesn't love this stuff?! Made Rocky's day, though, because he now gets to eat it.

    Teeth are in good shape (floated and had wolf tooth removed in March), up-to-date on vaccinations and deworming (getting ready to PowerPak), had him scoped for ulcers in May and he was fine. He gets Ulcerguard (1/2 tube per day) at shows (well, I should say show since he's only been to one).

    So, should I be working on getting more weight on him? Such as trying oil, rice bran, etc? Or bumping up his Senior? Or should I stay the current course of management?

    He reminds me so much of my old event horse Traveler--he was similar, always very svelte looking no matter what you tried, and a picky eater to boot. At least Dutch happily eats his supplements (as long as they are mixed in his feed with water to make a mash).

    Here are current pics:

  • #2
    Sounds like you're on the right track. I've had TBs like this - they just wouldn't gain weight, unless maybe I gave them 2 years off!

    I'd go ahead and try the oil - a cheap fix, lots of calories that won't make him hot.

    Sounds like he is pretty small - any chance he could have a "foal creep" type arrangement, with some extra food free-choice that the QH can't hoover up?

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


    • #3
      You don't want your horse over a BC score of 5 (assuming you're referring to the 1-9 scale). A 5, or even a 4, is ideal for an athlete.

      My eventer is at least a 7 right now but super fit and exploding with energy just from pasture grazing only. He's the fattest TB ever He looks fabulous around April coming out of winter, when he's juuuust barely a 5. Wish he'd stay there!!!


      • #4
        From the pictures he looks in about perfect weight for the work he is in. There are no good conformation pictures, but what I saw was good weight, no ribs showing and good muscle over bone.

        You should be able to feel his ribs, though not necessarily see them. Even if you can see one or two, some horses are just built that way. I would say do not change a thing.


        • #5
          I think if you have a hot little horse who is CDE fit and maintaining a 5 on the BC scale, you are doing something VERY right. You can add some fat to his diet via oil, rice bran, or a higher fat feed, but I think a 5 on a really fit horse is a very good thing. You don't want him much heavier than that, as the added weight can end up being harder on him in all the work he does.

          Fat isn't a good thing. Covering his ribs, a healthy bloom on his coat, and a good top line is what you want...NOT chubbiness.


          • #6
            it really sounds like you're doing everything right. although, i'm curious, why are you feeding him senior?

            your pony is a very lucky boy to have you


            • Original Poster

              Thanks guys! I agree that adding some oil would be a good thing; certainly can't hurt. Any suggestions as to what's best? Good old corn oil? Rice bran oil? Of course, we'll see if pony turns his nose up at it or not.

              Everyone else on the farm is a big time easy keeper. So they make Dutch look very svelte. I guess I kind of lean toward a 6 on the BCS scale...or would rather start there when conditioning. But he seems to be a permanent 5, which as you all note, is not a bad thing at all.


              • #8
                I also think is body condition is good for what your plan to do with him. Yes, if you were going to do the hunters on him, you would want him to carry more weight.
                Certainly corn oil is a good addition, and really just plain vegetable oil does almost as well, for much less cost. And I agree with feeding him some Purina Senior, it works well for horses that need more calories without more food weight.

                You might try a probiotic to get his gut flora more productive...and I'm glad to hear he gets plenty of pasture time, it sure helps keep ulcers and worrying at a minimum. Hand graze him every chance you get wen you get to a show, too. He is a cute guy!
                What would you try if you knew you would not fail?


                • #9
                  I've never had any luck with corn oil....plus it is messy.

                  If he isn't a picky eater...this stuff (Ultimate Finish) is great as a big time fat supplement.

                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                  • #10
                    He has a lovely top line! I finally got my TB's back "up" again after a short run at a bad boarding situation. Your pony's "da bomb."
                    T3DE 2010 Pact Group
                    Barefoot Eventers Clique


                    • Original Poster

                      Okay, so I switched his SmartPak from SmartDigest to SmartGain 4--the SG still has the pre- and probiotics that the SD does, but is also 20% fat so that may help as well. I'm also going to look into finding Ultimate Finish. Of my two local feed stores, one is an Agway and the other is strictly a Purina dealer so neither carry Buckeye products. May have to go further afield.

                      I was really glad that he didn't drop weight after the CDE...it was hard going in the mud that weekend; very physically exhausting for most horses, but he bounced back like it was nothing.

                      My husband had done a great job developing Dutch's topline; he can be very tense in his back/neck so it's a lot of work to really get him "through." I ride him and can vouch for that! Can't imagine doing it in harness but that's probably while I play the part of navigator and pony rider!