Condition scoring….

Feeding my natives over the winter is easy. Every morning, I greet them with a carrot each, and they’ve a second carrot before lights out. They have good quality hay or haylage overnight and go out on mud during the day, weather permitting.

In spring, things get trickier. There’s new grass and a new show season to consider. I want my young ponies to keep growing even as they’re broken-in, but I don’t want to feel like I’m backing a rocket. I want to feed the ones I intend showing just enough to see glossy coats, yet I can’t bear fat bellies. Don’t even start me on my breeding mares!How to monitor it all? At home, Dad will walk around with a nutritionist condition scoring all his cows and tweaking feeds accordingly. I thought, why not apply the same principles to the ponies? That way, I can objectively monitor progress.

I’ve found the Baileys condition scoring chart useful for this purpose. I started out by conditioning each one and making a note of the scores. From there, I have been able to objectively consider what their dietary requirements are and how best to meet them. I’ve found that it’s easy to ignore the weight issue when you’re busy and your ponies know every trick in the book to get a little extra food out of you. It’s much harder to ignore when you force yourself to really look, score them accordingly, and keep track of your scores over a period.

It’s also helped me to really look at their shape, and to think of each pony’s shape in a more constructive way than if I was to simply use a weigh band. The guidance on the Baileys website explains why that’s the case. Although, it has made me obsessed with grabbing their crests for a good old wiggle about, and one crest is driving me crazier than ever! Give it a go and see what you think.

Incidentally, there’s far more guidance on the website than simply the condition score. If you happen to be a bit like me and love a podcast to listen to as you go about yard duties or doing the dishes, the Baileys podcast is also informative on a range of dietary topics and just the right length.

Find the condition scoring guide here: Body Condition Scoring (

Find the podcast here: Baileys Horse Feeds Podcast

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