Is Your Horse Too Fat? There's an App for That

Is Your Horse Too Fat? There's an App for That

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A recent collaborative project between equine researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Kentucky has resulted in an app that helps horse owners better determine their horse’s body weight.

Knowing the weight of a horse relative to the ideal weight of his breed can help owners better determine their horse's nutritional needs and medication dosage.

Born from collaborations between UK and University of Minnesota over the past several years on equine metabolic studies, the two sets of university researchers often discussed how the industry needed a way to more easily measure a horse’s body weight.

“We wanted to come up with a better way to determine a horse’s body weight and provide something similar to the BMI (body mass index) measurement currently used in humans,” said Bob Coleman, PhD, PAS, associate professor in UK’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences and extension horse specialist. “We also wanted a scoring system that wasn’t going to be as impacted by the adiposity (fat deposits) of a horse as the current method of using girth measurement to determine a horse’s body weight.”

Asked if researchers were successful in developing that something, Coleman’s short answer was yes.

“The big thing is that it gets people talking about where they are with their horse instead of guessing. If they want to use technology to do that, they can,” Coleman said. “We found that horse owners were excited to give us the data and more excited when they found out how it could help them manage their horses.”

Morphometric measurements collected on 629 horses in Minnesota, including height at the third thoracic vertebra (A), neck circumference located half way between the poll and withers (B), girth circumference at the base of the mane hairs (C), and body length from the point of shoulder to a line that was perpendicular to the point of the buttock (D).

Coleman helped collect data on 629 horses at the Minnesota State 4-H Horse Show and Western Saddle Club Association Championship Show. Owners volunteered their horses for measurement and for those figures to be used as part of the data.

The app, called the Healthy Horse App, is marketed by the University of Minnesota and currently available only on the Apple app store, with plans for compatibility with android devices soon. It currently costs $1.99, and according to Coleman, proceeds will be used to help improve the app's functionality in the future.

The app currently works for adult Arabian horses, Miniature horses, ponies, saddle horses (defined as Morgan, Mustang, Paso Fino, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walking Horses), and stock horses (Appaloosas, Appendix, Paint Horses, Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds).

When using the app, Coleman said owners provide measurements, in inches, for their horse’s girth circumference, neck circumference, body length (with diagrams showing how to measure from the shoulder to the hindquarters), and height at the top point of the withers. Those measurements are then calculated through formulas developed by university researchers to provide the horse’s weight. A comparison ideal weight of that breed is also given, which lets owners see if their horse is over or under the ideal weight for that breed.

The project’s team included Coleman; Molly McCue, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, PhD, associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; Krishona Martinson, PhD, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Department of Animal Science; Nicol Schultz, DVM, graduate student at the University of Minnesota Department of Animal Science; Aaron Rendahl, of the University of Minnesota School of Statistics; and Krishna Natarajan, graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota.

More information about the app, the study and the research can be found at

Holly Wiemers, MA, is communications director for University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Programs

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