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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 (BCS) and Thoroughbreds and warmbloods had lower BCS than other breed types.
  • All horse owners and handlers miscalculated 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 bodyweight, 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, draft horses, gaited horses, miniature horses, saddle-type horses, stock-type horses, Thoroughbreds, and warmbloods
  • Neck circumference
  • Girth circumference
  • Height
  • Body length

How to accurately calculate your horses weight

In a study we conducted from 2011 to 2017, we found that, on average,

  • Draft horse and warmblood owners and handlers miscalculated the weight of their horses by 115 pounds or about 7 percent.
  • Miniature horse owners were within 35 pounds (15 percent) of correctly guessing scale weight. 
  • While saddle-type horse and Thoroughbred owners were within 8 percent, which is about 84 and 95 pounds, respectively.

Misjudging horse bodyweight by this amount could have serious implications when managing nutrition and health.

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Equations made simple with the Healthy Horse app

Healthy Horse is a fee-based app designed to help horse owners and professionals use the new bodyweight equations. Healthy Horse is available for Android (Google Play) and Apple (iTunes).

The app estimates bodyweight and ideal bodyweight for different horse breeds after you enter body measurements. 

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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