How fat? Online tool helps owners “score” their horses

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Body Conditions Scoring "in the field", thanks to the new Spillers tool.
Body Conditions Scoring “in the field”, thanks to the new Spillers tool.

British horse feed manufacturer Spillers has developed a new online tool to help  owners manage their horses’ body condition.

The company has developed a new online Body Condition Index calculator, which works in conjunction the its Body Condition Scoring tool to make it easier for owners to manage their horses’ body condition via mobile and tablet devices, on the yard.

Devised via a study conducted by the University of Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with the Waltham Equine Studies Group, the BCI calculator works in a similar way to the body mass index (BMI) used in humans. It is based on objective body measurements that correlate with actual body fat percentage. A mathematical equation is used to calculate a score between one and nine using four body measurements. It should be particularly useful to help assess the early stages of weight loss, when condition is being monitored by more than one person or when it is being checked by those less familiar with body condition scoring.

Equine obesity, with its associated health risks, is a significant problem in horses around the world. A study of predominantly outdoor living horses and ponies in Britain showed nearly 30% were overweight coming out of the winter and around 35% in the summer. Recent research published in the Equine Veterinary Journal suggests that owners find it easier to manage weight loss if they are given positive assistance. The two new tools are aimed at doing exactly that and can be easily accessed via mobile phones and tablets while on the yard.

Body condition scoring is a method of practically assessing the horse or pony’s level of fat covering across several areas of the body where fat is normally laid down.
Body condition scoring is a method of practically assessing the horse or pony’s level of fat covering across several areas of the body where fat is normally laid down.

Accurate assessment of fat deposits can help identify levels of obesity and assist with the monitoring of weight loss. Early weight loss, however, especially in very obese animals can be difficult to track by using Body Condition Scoring alone as initially there may be no obvious changes due to loss of internal fat first.

The Body Condition Scoring (BCS) tool helps horse owners learn how to assess levels of fat in key areas using eye and touch. The online diagram, ‘How to’ videos, and instructions are easy to use and accessible on mobile devices to help the user gain confidence with this well-known but less objective method of body condition monitoring.

Spillers Registered Nutritionist Clare Barfoot said Body Condition Scoring was widely recognised as an important way of keeping track of condition on a routine basis. “The new BCI tool should help owners to check their accuracy of body condition scoring and become more confident and efficient with it. The important end goal is for more effective weight management programmes and healthier horses.”

 

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