With some studies showing up to 70% of horses in the UK being obese, obesity is a growing and concerning problem.
WHY ARE HORSES BECOMING MORE OBESE?
- More and more horses being kept as pets
- More horses being inactive
- Owners over-estimating how hard their horses are working and therefore over feeding them
- Owners being 'anthropomorphic' and in their love of horses, and trying to 'treat' them by over feeding them
- Owners being subject to increased marketing by feed companies.
- Confusion over what their horses really need.
All of the reasons above combined have increased the problem in recent years. Social yard pressures are often the reason for choosing a particular type of feed, and often owners do not have a basic education in nutrition; how to calculate feed rations for your horse based on their bodyweight, and what vitamins and nutrients horses really need.
BUT WHY IS OBESITY A PROBLEM?
A recent conversation with a Redwings representative alerted me to the severity of the problem in the UK, and highlighted that obesity is much more of a problem than a horse that is under weight or even malnourished. Obesity can cause permanent damage whereas an underweight horse can be more easily 'fixed'. Obesity can cause all sorts of metabolic problems such as insulin dysregulation, laminitis, orthopaedic disease, infertility or poor performance. In order to monitor obesity you can use body condition scoring and with scales of 1-10, you need to keep your horse under 7.
HOW TO BODY CONDITION SCORE (BCS)?
There are different body condition scoring scales, some grade horses out of 5 and some out of 10. The most recommended ones by Rendle et al (2020) is that of Henneke (1983), which was improved by Kohnke in 1992. A healthy BCS is that of 5. This may rise to 6 over the Summer and then fall to 4 over the Winter. It is a natural process for horses to lose a bit of weight over the winter in preparation for Spring when we all know that horses will put on weight! A score over 7 is considered obese.
The image below shows the areas on the horse where fat accumulates (Veteriankey, 2020). These areas are where you need to feel on your horse in order to assess their condition score.
Next look at Henneke's (1983) condition scoring scale below and from this, you can assess your own horse.
What condition score is your horse? Do post a photo and comment below with the score, I would love to know.