A programme to reward ideal body condition in show horses is under way in Britain, with the aim of helping owners keep their horses at a healthy weight.
Liverpool University behaviour change scientist Dr Tamzin Furtado is behind the programme, along with Jan Rogers, Director of Research and Policy at The Horse Trust. A pilot programme ran before the Covid-19 disruptions in 2019 and was very well received by competitors and professionals alike.
“Horses who are overweight or cresty are often celebrated for their condition – and we want to slightly challenge that, by celebrating horses in ideal body condition,” Furtado said.
Fellow Liverpool University graduate and vet, Ben Curnow, MRCVS, who judged body condition as part of the 2019 pilot programme, added: “It’s not about being critical of or challenging the judges, just showcasing what ideal body condition looks like.”
The British Equine Veterinary Association considers equine obesity to be one of the highest-ranking equine health risks today. The Horse Trust is working with several horse world bodies to come up with practical solutions to enable human behaviour around equine obesity to be changed for the better.
Rogers says peoples’ perceptions of what is a healthy weight have shifted towards higher body condition scores.
“We would like to help to reset this balance,” she said.
“We get very upset by seeing photos of underweight horses in the media, but in reality, far more horses are obese than are underweight.
“This is very worrying for vets who are finding that they have to treat these horses with serious health conditions like Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Laminitis,” Rogers said.
The programme targets both affiliated and unaffiliated shows up and down the country, providing friendly, supportive advice and guidance to owners, riders and producers, helping them to recognize the benefits of maintaining a healthy body condition. Both local and on-site vets work in conjunction with the judges to score horses in the chosen classes and award a rosette to the healthiest body condition within the class.
David Ingle, Chairman of The Showing Council and Director of Showing at the Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead, said the initiative would help to shine a light on an important aspect of showing. “Showing is keen to become more educational and we are in an era of great improvement in equine welfare, with increasing scrutiny under social license,” he said.
The Royal International Horse Show participated in the 2019 pilot programme and is including the initiative again this year. Other participants in the 2019 pilot included Bucks County Show, Great Yorkshire Show and Wheatley Horse Show.
The programme will run at events throughout the showing season and hopes to continue expanding its calendar in 2022.
» For information on how to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01903 892060.