Fitness Matters

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An article in our local paper said 1 in 20 Americans over the age of 50 has artificial knees. The number is expected to increase. Why' Obesity and over-exercise.

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it' Either way, though, it boils down to we're wearing out our bodies. it's the same for our horses, which is why we need to pay close attention to fitness and weight?both the horse's and ours.

I selected a photo (see buckskin mare) of one of my mares for this editorial. I thought she was very fat. But both our Contributing Veterinary Editors, Dr. Grant Miller and Dr. Deb Eldredge, said no.
?I'd have to put my hands on her to be sure, but she just looks a little round,? said Dr. Eldredge.

Dr. Miller said, ?I get asked to body-condition-score horses based on photos a lot, but unfortunately, you must visually inspect as well as palpate six places on the body in order to get an accurate score.?I would need photos from the front, back, left side, right side, and from above to get a better idea from the photo.?She looks to be just a bit overweight, nothing too drastic.? He then sent the photo of the horse's neck for comparison. Yup, that horse is fat.

Maybe I over-reacted, but I worry about the problems that can come from having a fat horse, including their inability to carry a rider, especially an overweight one. (Disclosure: I've battled weight issues my entire life; I'm not casting stones.)

Most horses can comfortably carry 20% of their weight. So, your 15.2-hand 1,000-lb. horse can carry 200 lbs. (add in rider, helmet, boots, saddle, bridle, saddle pad, girth, etc.). Now, if you weigh 160 lbs. naked . . . .

Sure, there are variances, such as the amount of pressure per square inch (saddle area), the length of a horse's back (short-backed horses can carry more than long-backed one), the horse's own weight (an overweight horse can carry less because He's also carrying his own excess) and the rider?s ability (a larger, quieter, more skilled equestrian is easier for the horse to carry than a lighter one who is flopping all over the place). But still, when you think about it, our horses don't have it easy toting us around all day. Keeping both them and ourselves at a proper weight and fitness is the least we can do.