Nutritional Articles

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Overview of Horse body Composition and Muscle Architecture

Published: 2003-03-28

Brief conent of the article
Locomotion requires skeletal muscle to sustain and generate force. A muscle’s force potential is proportional to its weight. Since the larger the muscle the larger its potential power output, a better understanding of the proportion of skeletal muscle a horse possesses may lead to a better understanding of horse performance. The authors discuss several techniques which exist to assess body composition, which include dual energy X-ray absorption, underwater (hydrostatic) weighing, derivation from total bodywater, bio-electric impedance, air displacement, body conditioning scoring, cadaver dissection and ultrasound. The relevance of each method to the equine industry is discussed as well the practical information that the existing horse body composition studies have provided. Attention is given to the data regarding the implications of body composition on the performance horse. The limited number of studies discussing different varieties of muscle architectures and functional importance is also adressed. The authors wrote that the body composition data presented may provide a better understanding of important issues in horse care that can lead to more optimal horse care techniques and a healthier and safer environment for horses.
Keywords: Muscle mass; fat mass; muscle architecture; performance

Kearns, C.F., McKeever, K.H. and Abe, T. 2002. Overview of Horse Body Composition and Muscle Archtecture: Implications for Performance. The Veterinary Journal 164: 224-234.

Website and Publisher
Elsevier Science; available online at