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Estimating actual and ideal bodyweight of adult horses

Quick facts

  • In this study, draft horses and ponies had higher body condition scores than other breed types.
  • Draft horse and warmblood owners and handlers miscalculated by an average of 115 pounds off their horse’s actual bodyweight.
  • New bodyweight equations more accurately estimate actual and ideal bodyweights for horses.
  • Healthy Horse is an app that can help owners and professionals calculate bodyweights for individual horses.
Measuring horse body length
Measuring body length

Overweight and obese horses are a growing problem in the United States. Excess bodyweight can lead to many health issues including:

  • Insulin resistance (IR)
  • Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)
  • Laminitis
  • Poor thermoregulation: unable to maintain body temperature
  • Decreased athletic ability

Determining a horse’s bodyweight is important for managing weight, nutrition and health. However, few owners have access to a livestock scale. In the absence of a scale, horse owners can use equations to predict their horse’s bodyweight based on their height and body length.

To more accurately predict bodyweight, we developed new improved equations that address:

  • Breed type: Arabians, stock-type horses, draft horses and warmbloods
  • Neck circumference
  • Girth circumference
  • Height
  • Body length
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Devan Catalano, graduate student, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Marcia Hathaway, professor of animal science, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Molly McCue, DVM; and Krishona Martinson, Extension equine specialist

Acknowledgments: These projects were funded by USDA-NIFA and Purina Animal Nutrition, LLC.

Reviewed in 2019

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