October 26, 2021 – Kentucky Equine Research Staff has published the results of a study on Body Weight Perceptions of Horses by Show Judges. The study is a result of the growing incidence of obesity among horses in the show ring, a cause of worry for veterinarians and nutritionists due to risk of serious illness such as metabolic disease and laminitis.
In the study, 211 highly skilled show hunter judges (over 20 years experience) were surveyed in order to determine their knowledge on body condition. The study gave 13 images of horses for the judges to categorize as thin, average, overweight or obese.
“About 95% of the respondents indicated that having too much or too little fat covering compromises an animal’s score in competition,” stated Kentucky Equine Research Staff. “Judges disclosed they were more likely to penalize a horse or pony if they were deemed too thin rather than too fat.”
The study concluded that judges were unable to identify healthy horses and that average horses were often incorrectly viewed as thin. The judges, therefore would give harsher penalties to those viewed as thin than to those viewed as overweight or obese horses.
According to the study, judges did allude to this gap in knowledge. In fact, 64% of judges requested additional educational materials and concrete guidelines for assessing fat coverage in horses and ponies at the conclusion of the survey.
In order for riders and owners to become more aware of overweight horses and ponies, nutritionists recommend to regularly weigh and give a routine condition score to your horse. In addition to regular exercise, safe weight loss tactics include low-calorie, low-sugar, high-fiber forage with vitamin and mineral supplements.
Creating a proper feeding routine is vital to maintaining a healthy body weight condition for your horse. A rule to keep in mind when creating a feeding schedule is that you should usually feed 1 to 2 kg of feed per 100 kg of bodyweight. Access to water at all times is crucial to a feeding schedule as well, ideally having a self-filling trough.
Learn more about horse nutrition here.
Check out the Top 10 Horse Feed Brands for 2021 to aid in choosing feed for your proper feeding schedule.
About The Plaid Horse
The Plaid Horse is a woman-owned small business dedicated to education in the horse show industry. We publish 10-12 magazine issues per year as well as a series of novels and select non-fiction, run a daily website, and produce a weekly podcast. A frequent horse show sponsor, we are committed to inspiring young riders to take a more active role in the industry.
About Piper Klemm
Dr. Piper Klemm is the owner and publisher of The Plaid Horse. Her mission is to educate young equestrians in every facet of our industry and to empower young women in particular to find their voices and stories—and to share them.
She has spent her entire career focusing on education through various channels, including The Plaidcast, North America’s most listened-to horse show podcast; as a professor at Clarkson University; co-authoring the Show Strides book series; and by providing educational articles, grants, and experiential learning opportunities for riders of all ages and levels. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.
Piper lives in Canton, New York, with her husband, Adam Hill. Adam is a Chemistry Professor at St. Lawrence University and the Faculty Mentor to the national champion IHSA Riding Team. She owns a fleet of lease ponies, and competes in the Amateur Hunter divisions with MTM Sandwich.