How Body Condition influences Hoof Care Practices.by Keith "KC" La Pierre, MIAEP, APF, RJF
Being the first week of the new year my thoughts focus on maintaining or achieving better health in the coming year, this not only for myself, but for my horses and the horses in my care as well.
Close observation of the horse's body condition helps in my preparations for upcoming seasonal changes, and the riding season. Experienced horse people know that a heavy winter coat can hide a multitude of issues. Changes in water intake, diet and exercise all result in loss of conditioning. Some horses lose weight, others gain weight.
As an Equine Podiatrist the horse's body condition is important in determining a reasonable treatment protocol and prognosis. Because of this, body scoring is included in the DAEP's (Diploma in Applied Equine Podiatry) Spectrum of Usability.
When first called upon to work on a horse I always conduct a thorough evaluation of the whole horse, not simply its hooves. Let me give you an example of how body scoring helps in determining my course of action.
There have been occasion when I have been called upon to pull horseshoes off of a horse, this usually by a horse owner that wants to go natural or barefoot. However, when I see the horse and complete a thorough evaluation, which includes body scoring (we'll give the horse a 8) and the Spectrum of Usability of the hooves (we'll give the horse a 2), I find that my recommendation must be; do not pull the shoes. In this example the recommendation was not made because the horse had a low body condition score, but rather a high body condition score. A high body condition score coupled with a low Spectrum of Usability score. In the practice of Applied Equine Podiatry we utilize the Spectrum of Usability to assess the capability the horse's feet have to deal with force. Each structure is assessed and rated on a scale of 1/9, with 1 being poorest, unlike body condition scoring 9 is healthiest. In body condition scoring 1 is poor, 5 is healthy and 9 is poor. The horse in this example scored high on the body score, which means it was overweight. Also in the example the horse scored low on the S of U. A low score on the S of U indicates a foot that cannot easily cope with excessive force, (a weak, unstable foot). You may be aware that Force = Mass x Acceleration. When assessing whether a horse's foot needs stabilization and to what degree, is in part determined by body condition. Fortunately we now have alternatives to conventional horseshoes, (immobilization). We now have products that offer dynamic stabilization, such as Perfect Hoof Wear. In the not so distant past the recommendation for the overweight horse that had unstable hooves would be to stay in shoes for the time being, get some weight off the horse and remove the shoes when the environment was best for rehabilitation (drier summer months for example). Today we can apply products that offer stabilization and correct stimulus for the return of health to weak unstable structures (hoof wall, heels, bars, etc), while allowing the horse to be placed into a weight loss and rehabilitation program. Every hoof care provider should be well versed in Equine Body Scoring and should utilize this knowledge to keep the horses in their care safe and sound.
Here is a video/power point that will help you to better understand body scoring and how our graduates (DAEP) utilize body scoring to help in the rehabilitation of your horses hooves.