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‘Judges should place fats horses decrease’ to assist beat equine weight problems

  • Showing judges must place overweight horses down the line, it has been said, as joint efforts continue against the equine obesity epidemic.

    At the Showing Council summer conference on 28 June, the Horse Trust’s Jan Rogers and researcher Tamzin Furtado gave a presentation on their “Weigh to Win” scheme. The scheme awards rosettes in showing classes to the horse or pony in the best body condition, and has been extended this season.

    Dr Furtado said those behind the scheme are considering how they scale it up, adding: “This stage is up to the showing community, to think about how we take it forward. Engagement with shows has been key; some have really embraced the idea with announcements and so on, and competitors have loved it. That’s a really forward-thinking show. In other situations, it’s been a bit aside from the class, and people have felt it doesn’t really matter. What people seem to want is that full engagement from shows.”

    She added that the idea works best when everyone is on board; so competitors feel encouraged to bring animals in healthy condition, and judges feel confident to explain to those whose horses have been placed lower owing to excess weight.

    “I’m really pleased to say the Great Yorkshire Show [12-15 July] is promoting the fact it’s a healthy-weight show this year.”

    This means that as well as the awards, the show will have free condition-scoring and weight management advice, from Dr Furtado and independent nutritionist Nikki Meggison. Competitors will be encouraged to enter horses and ponies at “ideal” weights, and the judges will take condition into account when deciding placings.

    “The more shows take this on board, the more people will be encouraged to feel good about what they’re doing, and go to these events,” Dr Furtado said.

    She added: “I’m really keen to hear what you think. Do we need to do more? Should there be rule changes? What do we do to take this to the next level? We’ve got the positive first step but it won’t change the world on its own.”

    In the discussion that followed, the question was asked on what should the Showing Council and other organisations do to educate judges more on obesity.

    “I couldn’t agree more with Jan Rogers and Tamzin Furtardo,” said Showing Council chair Jane Nixon. “In the late 1980s, in the Royal Windsor workers, there were only two good jumping rounds so the judges only pulled two forwards and gave them rosettes. If we have obese horses in a class, my belief is they shouldn’t be placed.”

    British Show Horse Association chair Nick Thompson said the association is putting together training on body condition scoring for judges, adding that a meeting with Ms Rogers and Dr Furtado would be “welcome”.

    “The judges are putting horses up as they’re presented in unsatisfactory body condition,” he said. “It’s a bit of a vicious circle and we’ve got to try to break that circle.”

    British Show Pony Society (BSPS) chair Paul Cook added that obesity was addressed at the BSPS judges’ conference this year, where judges agreed overweight ponies should be placed lower.

    “I think we’re all on the same page and want to work together on this,” he said.

    “The onus in my view is on judges, making educated appraisals and always placing overweight horses down the line,” Dr Nixon said. “And explaining to the exhibitor why they’ve done so.”

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