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Stick with Condition Scoring for Managing Your Horse's WeightBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · November 30, 2017

While many owners do not worry excessively about their horses’ body weight, others fret and fuss, frequently altering diets and exercise regimes to maintain optimal body condition. But how do you know when you’ve reached your goal?

According to a recent study on the subject*, there are several options for measuring body fat, including scoring body condition, measuring rump fat thickness, and other methods necessitating special equipment. One such example includes deuterium oxide fat analysis that requires an injection of deuterium oxide into the bloodstream and later collecting a blood sample to analyze the deuterium oxide content via gas isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Not exactly standard equipment on a vet truck!

Unlike rump fat thickness and laboratory methods, body condition scoring serves as both a quick and economical method of assessing body fat. The questions remain, however: Does body condition accurately reflect body fat, and does body condition apply to any breed of horse?

In the study, researchers used the three techniques mentioned above to determine if condition scoring was, in fact, a reasonable method to assess body fat. Using stock-type horses, the researchers demonstrated that measuring body condition using the Henneke nine-point scale, but not rump fat thickness “was a valuable predictor of body fat in stock-type horses.”

The researchers explained that accurately assessing body fat will help develop nutrition models and establish welfare thresholds.

“Maintaining an appropriate body weight helps horses lead healthier lives, decreases the chance of developing hormonal imbalances that can lead to insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, and laminitis, and improves reproductive efficiency,” added Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

To optimize your horse’s health and ensure all nutritional needs are being met, consult with a KER nutrition advisor today.

*Ferjak, E.N., C.A. Cavinder, D.D. Burnett, et al. 2017. Body fat of stock-type horses predicted by rump fat thickness and deuterium oxide dilution and validated by near-infrared spectroscopy of dissected tissues. Journal of Animal Science. 95(10):4344-4351.