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US study found that 77% of Show Judges are unable to spot an overweight horse.

horses grazing, different grazing systems, can judges spot overweight horses

A study in the US sent a survey to experienced show judges, half of which had over 20 years of experience, to help understand how they view and score overweight horses. They found that judges were more likely to penalise leaner horses than overweight horses and more worryingly, many were unable to recognise an overweight horse.

50% of all respondents said they would or they might accept more fat coverage on a horse in the ring. Not only this, but more judges said they would penalise a horse for being too thin than judges who said they would penalise a horse for being too fat.

As part of the study, the judges were also sent 13 photos of horses. These horses had been body conditioned scored by experts. There were 5 obese, 3 overweight, 3 underweight and 2 average horses in these photos. Over 77% of judges said each overweight horse was average. 91% of judges classed one of the average horses as thin, possibly due to the faint outline of ribs.

Not only are judges being more leniant to overweight horses than underweight, they also think that horses are skinnier than they are!

While this study was in the US, we have the same obesity problem here in the UK. It is one of the biggest killers in horses. Previous studies in the UK have found that owners and trainers, possibly rightly, feel that their horses will get marked down if they aren’t in “show condition.” Not only this, but they are concerned they will get trouble from the industry if their horse is a bit skinny.

This again highlights the need within the industry, for both owners and professionals, for better education around equine obesity. As an industry, we feel that slightly skinny horses are unhealthy or underfed. But actually they could be healthier and happier. Most horses with a history of injury or ongoing conditions such as arthritis will benefit from being slightly on the lighter side than on the heavier side.

Last Updated on 27/05/2022

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