A new award recognising show horses in the best body condition is aiming ‘reset’ the public’s views on what is a healthy weight for a horse. The Horse Trust, in association with Liverpool University, is supporting the Healthiest Body Condition Awards in show horses at shows throughout the country. The awards reward horses in the best condition as well as providing support and advice.

Showing producer Katie Jerram-Hunnable was awarded the Healthiest Body Condition for her horse The Imperial Choice at Herts County Show and said building muscle-tone rather than just putting on weight is essential for her horses’ wellbeing. Ten-year-old gelding ‘Gus’ was competing in the middleweight hunter class and went on to finish second overall. He followed up this achievement at the South of England Show, Ardingly, where he went on to be champion.

Katie, from Great Dunmow, Essex, attributes Gus’s excellent condition to a regime of daily exercise and correct feeding, plus turnout and grazing. Katie monitors the grass available and accordingly adjusts all the horses’ feeds in line with the quality of forage that grows throughout the year. She said the overriding contributor to her horses’ wellbeing is her drive to build muscle-tone, rather than just putting on weight.

“We can’t feed to get fit but we can make sure the horse gets the correct nutrition and exercise”, she said. “The programme is a very good thing and really goes towards helping people to be aware of healthy body condition and its importance.”

The Royal Veterinary College supported the event at Herts County Show by carrying out the body condition scoring, helping to make this a ‘Weight-Aware’ event. The British Equine Veterinary Association considers equine obesity to be one of the highest-ranking equine health risks today.

“Far more horses are obese than are underweight, which is worrying for vets who are treating these horses with serious health diseases like equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis,” said Jan Rogers at The Horse Trust. “Perceptions of what is a healthy weight have shifted towards the higher body condition scores. We would like to help to reset this balance”.

Behaviour change scientist Dr Tamzin Furtado from Liverpool University developed the programme to reward healthy body condition in show horses in conjunction with The Horse Trust. The project is part of a national scheme to raise awareness of what a healthy equine body condition looks like and reward those who have achieved it.

The initiative involves vets who attend shows across the country throughout the showing season, assessing horses in selected classes. Targeting both affiliated and unaffiliated shows, the scheme provides friendly, supportive guidance to help owners and producers recognise the benefits of maintaining a healthy body condition.

The Horse Trust is “delighted” at the interest in the 2022 Healthy Body Condition Awards for Show Horses with an increasing number of shows signing up to take part.

Earlier this month, Your Horse reported on a new slimming club for horse owners to gain support and advice to help their equines reach a healthy weight. Find out more here.

Find out what’s inside the latest issue of Your Horse

Get the latest issue

Check out our latest subscription offer