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[RC] Horse Welfare - Tom Noll


The recent discussions regarding horse deaths, colic, and metabolic problems
are enough to scare anyone.  I am relatively new to endurance riding, but I
think I can emphasize one insight that seems particularly important.  My
recommendation is to read, or reread, Susan Garlinghouse's web pages
regarding condition score (CS):




The statistical summaries are very revealing.  For those who lack the time
to read the documents, the conclusion is to get the condition score of the
horse to 5.0 or slightly above - meaning that, at the least, there should be
a thin but real layer of fat over the horse's ribs ("ribs cannot be seen but
are easily felt").  The studies were done at the Tevis Cup ride in 1995 and
1996, and confirmed in 1998.

Even though the CS goes up to 9, there were no horses with a CS over 5.5 in
the studies.  It seems that it is very difficult to maintain a CS much over
5.0 on a horse that is being properly trained for endurance.

Horses with a CS around 5 had fewer problems than the thinner horses and
were far less likely to be pulled.  The process protecting the horses could
be the body reserves measured by the fat layer, or perhaps the fat layer
signals that the horses were not over-trained.  Either way, the statistical
results are conclusive -- thin horses had a greater likelihood of metabolic
problems and a greater likelihood of being pulled.

The conclusion that fatness is as important as fitness may not be new, but I
have not seen it mentioned in the discussions regarding horse deaths,
metabolic problems, electrolytes, and colic.  Based on my reading of the
studies, as many as 25 percent of the horses starting Tevis may have a CS
lower than 4, and a CS under 4 appears to lower the likelihood of finishing
to about 25 percent or less.  A CS of 5 or above improves the likelihood of
finishing to over 90 percent.

A proper CS will probably not protect against all sorts of calamities
including over-riding a horse during a ride, but the statistical results are
clear.  A proper CS coupled with reasonable training may be the first step
to showing up to a ride prepared -- fatness plus fitness.  The right CS will
not guarantee a sound horse, but it does appear to significantly improve the

Best Regards,

Tom Noll
SW Idaho


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