Researchers Develop Regional Fat Scoring System for Horses

The system measures fat deposits near the stomach and small intestine, around the heart, neck crest, and rump.

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Many horse owners are familiar with the Henneke body condition scoring (BCS) system and might have even used it a time or two. But with equine obesity, insulin resistance, and other metabolic disorders on the rise, a group of British researchers felt the need to develop and test a different type of scoring system—one that would specifically measure regional adipose (fatty) tissue in horses.

The group designed the new EQUIFAT scoring system to measure a variety of adipose tissue stores, including:

  • Omental (near the stomach);
  • Mesenteric (near the small intestine);
  • Epicardial (around the heart);
  • Nuchal crest (top of neck); and
  • Rump.

“This tool is essential only because information about internal (fat) reserves—specifically omental and mesenteric adipose tissues—cannot be obtained in living horses,” said Caroline Argo, BSc, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ECAR, MRCVS, head of veterinary education and the Department for Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Surrey, in the U.K. “Because these depots are only visible at surgery or post-mortem, it is the only mechanism we have to collect information about the size of these depots and its relationship with health and disease.”

In the first part of their recent study, Argo and fellow researchers set out to test EQUIFAT using images from 38 randomly selected mixed breed horses presented for slaughter at a U.K. abattoir. Twenty-four participants, including 17 veterinary surgeons, five clinical pathologists, and two scientific researchers, used a scoring system ranging from 1 to 5 (where 1 equates to no fat visible and 5 means excessive fat present) to assess the images. Some participants were allowed to use half scores while others could only use whole numbers

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Written by:

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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