Study asks – Do horse show judges favour fatter ponies?

Seems there’s a link between higher scores on the horse show judge’s card with higher scores on the Equine Body Condition Scale (the horse equivalent of the bathroom scale).

Researchers evaluated the body condition and cresty neck scores of 347 ponies preparing for the in-hand phase at the 2021 USEF Pony Finals horse show and found most ponies were too …chubby.

Too Thelwellesque.

“If you were to go to the gym and carry an extra 50 pounds in a backpack, it’s going to be harder on your body.  We need to think about the wear and tear that’s going on when these ponies are carrying this extra weight: on their limbs, feet, joints, navicular bone, all of their tendons. ”
Dr. Shannon  Pratt-Phillips

Additionally, overweight horses and ponies are at increased risk for several health problems, including to inflammatory conditions, such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), and laminitis. But the plump ponies in the study face an additional challenge: They’re asked to perform in not only in-hand classes but also under saddle and over fences.

“From my standpoint as a parent, any pony that can take my child around the show ring safely—whether it’s at a local show or Pony Finals—is a saint, and I want to do right by that pony,”
Dr. Shannon  Pratt-Phillips. 
“I think it’s going to take a lot of work from different groups,” she said. “… from owners and breeders who are concerned for the health of their animals. Maybe it comes down to the judges ..and the governing bodies that are hosting and organizing shows ”