Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: Can the fact that one of my horses is overweight lead to laminitis concerns?

By Devan Catalano and Krishona Martinson, PhD

Studies conducted by numerous researchers have shown the number of overweight horses are on the rise. A horse that is overweight has a much higher risk of developing laminitis, insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders.

There are a number of tools that can be used in helping determine if a horse is overweight.

1. Body Condition Score

Researchers from Texas developed the body condition scoring system in 1983, which is an evaluation of subcutaneous fat (palpable, under the skin) over six points on the horse; the neck, withers, behind the shoulder, along the back, rib area and the tail head.

Horses are scored for body condition in a range of 1 (poor) to 9 (extremely fat). The ideal BCS for most breeds and disciplines is a 5, but ranges from 4 to 6. Horses with a body condition score of 7 or above are considered overweight.

2. Girth:Height Ratio

The girth to height ratio is useful in estimating overall adiposity and is well correlated to body condition score. To calculate, simply divide the girth measurement by the height measurement. Both measurements should be taken at the top of the withers.

A horse would be considered overweight if the Girth:Height ratio is equal to or greater than 1.26. A pony would be considered overweight if the Girth:Height ratio is equal to or greater than 1.33.

3. Cresty Neck Score

Similar to the body condition scoring system, the cresty neck score is an evaluation of the amount of fat found in the neck region. Research has shown horses with cresty necks may be more prone to metabolic disorders.

The cresty neck score ranges from 0 to 5 with 0 indicating no visible appearance of a crest. A score of 5 indicates a crest so large that the neck droops to one side.

Owners should aim to keep their horses at a cresty neck score of 2 or lower. A score of 3 or greater would be considered a cresty neck and a horse that is likely overweight and prone to metabolic disorders.

4. Ideal Bodyweight Equations 

There are several equations that owners can use to estimate horse bodyweight without a scale. This is important and helps when determining doses of medications and dewormer, but what should a horse weigh?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed ideal bodyweight estimation equations to help owners assess if their horse is either under or overweight.

By using the equations below, or by entering measurements in the Healthy Horse app (available for both Apple and Droid devices), horse owners can calculate their horse’s ideal bodyweight based on breed type, height at the top of the withers and body length measured from the point of shoulder to a line perpendicular to the point of the buttock (do not wrap the tape measure around the buttock). Ideal bodyweight can then be compared with actual (or estimated) bodyweight and a nutrition program can be tailored to achieve bodyweight maintenance, loss or gain.

Arabians, Stock Horses and Ponies: Ideal bodyweight (lbs) = [(15.58 x height in inches) + (23.52 x body length in inches) – X]. X = 1,344 (Arabians), 1,269 (stock horses), or 1,333 (ponies)

Draft Horses and Warmbloods: Ideal bodyweight (lbs) = [(27.55 x height in inches) + (25.98 x body length in inches) – X]. X = 2,092 (draft horses) or 2,235 (warmbloods)

In conclusion, body condition score, girth to height ratio, cresty neck score and ideal bodyweight equations can all be used to help horse owners determine if their horse is overweight or obese. If more than one of these methods indicates an equine is overweight, the owner should work with an equine nutritionist to devise a bodyweight loss program.

Devan Catalano and Krishona Martinson are equine specialists with the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn.

Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is brought to you by W.F. Young Co. (Absorbine). Absorbine

Like many significant achievements, Absorbine® grew out of humble beginnings—and through the tenacity of someone willing to question the status quo. In this case, it was a young woman in late 19th-century Massachusetts: Mary Ida Young. Her husband, Wilbur Fenelon Young, was an enterprising piano deliveryman who relied on the couple’s team of horses to make deliveries throughout the Northeast. Inspired by Mary Ida and Wilbur’s vision, Absorbine® has continued to add innovative products throughout the years — products used every day by horse owners around the world. Which is why, since 1892, we’ve been The Horse World’s Most Trusted Name®.

Click here to read Part 2 of the March 15, 2019 installment: Can the particular region where a horse lives have an impact on potential Cushing’s disease dangers?

Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.