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Does body condition scoring portray an accurate representation of a horse's condition when compared to other morphological techniques?

02 September 2021
14 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 7
Figure 1.



The assessment of a horse's condition is generally carried out using body condition scoring, cresty neck scoring or weigh taping.


The objective of this study was to investigate the accuracy of body condition scoring in comparison to other commonly used morphological condition assessment techniques.


A recognised and well-established body condition scale adapted from Henneke et al (1983) was used, and the subsequent scores from this were compared to cresty neck scores, rump width measurements and belly and heart girth measurements. The study was carried out using seven horses and seven volunteers, who assessed each horse identifying any differences or similarities in each assessor's condition assessment.


The rump width measurements were the most accurately assessed condition assessment; however, using rump width measurements alone, a whole-body condition assessment cannot be made.


It is therefore recommended that it should be combined with other condition assessments to create a whole-body assessment, with detailed localised adiposity information.

Obesity is an issue in many species and is a leading factor in the development of other diseases (Raffan, 2013; Kipperman and German, 2018). The Blue Cross reported an increase in equine obesity within recent years, rising from 7.8% in 2013, to 16.9% in 2014 and 23.2% in 2015 (Murray et al, 2015). Simultaneous with this increase, a rise in related diseases, including laminitis, can also be observed, suggesting obesity could be a factor in the surge of select diseases (Murray et al, 2015). This study aims to identify which condition assessment provides the most consistent results and the effect owner education has on their ability to condition score. The use of alternative condition assessments to weigh bridges is important in equines because of the limitations faced by owners. Unlike smaller companion animals, horses require large, specialised scales, which can be expensive and hard to frequently access (Bushell and Murray, 2016; Witherow, 2019). The temperament of horses also provides further limitations and many horses may find the appearance of scales scary, subsequently not standing on scales to get an accurate weight (Witherow, 2019).

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