Healthiest Body Condition Awards showcase at Shira’aa Hickstead Derby 2023

Obese horse grazing. Horse's Trust encourages health body condition

The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby and The Horse Trust are delighted to announce that the Healthiest Body Condition Awards will be presented in an array of showing classes at the 2023 event. Instigated by The Horse Trust, in association with the University of Liverpool, the aim is to raise awareness of the dangers of equine obesity and to encourage owners, riders and producers to keep their horses at a healthy weight.

Hickstead led the way in introducing the Awards in the programme’s pilot year and have been influential in establishing recognition of the need to keep show horses at a healthy weight in showing. They were the first major show to present the awards and they have continued to support the initiative in a positive and non-confrontational way.  This has allowed the important message of healthy body condition to embed into the way of thinking of producers, judges and show organisers. As a result, many more shows are now recognising the value of The Horse Trust’s Healthy Equine Body Condition awards.

Obesity is a major problem in horses, leading to serious health problems, including laminitis, arthritis, equine metabolic syndrome and respiratory difficulties.  It can also make it challenging and uncomfortable for the horse to perform.

David Ingle, Director of Showing at the Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead and former Chairman of The Showing Council, said,


Showing is becoming more educational, and equine welfare is improving. This is due to increasing scrutiny from the public. The Healthiest Body Condition Awards shine a light on this important aspect of showing. We will be making this award in various classes at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby and The Royal International Horse Show this year thus highlighting the importance of correct weight to competitors.”

During selected classes at The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby, horses and ponies will be assessed by equine vets supported by Sussex Equine Hospital.

During selected classes at The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby, horses and ponies will be assessed by equine vets supported by Sussex Equine Hospital.

Jan Rogers, Head of Research and Policy at The Horse Trust, says,

We can all get very upset by seeing underweight horses in the media, but in reality, far more horses are obese than are underweight and we have lost our ability to see this.  We need to  reset the balance.” 

Recently Jan has observed:

“The engagement from the showing community has seen a step change this year. Many shows and individuals have been supportive since the programme got underway in 2019 and we are now seeing a mini tsunami of support. The Showing Council have embraced the promotion of healthy weight in the interests of horse wellbeing, and they have shown remarkable inspired leadership. Our work together to engage all the showing bodies through our annual Forum, which we hold at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, is helping everyone move along at the same pace and feel as though they are mutually supportive of each other. Some judges have been particularly passionate about this, and we’d like to recognise them for leading the way!  We still see some instances of very overweight horses in the ring, and some judges are still heard recommending that competitors “feed their horses more”. This seems to be reducing and we are seeing owners reassured in their confidence that they are doing the right thing by managing their horses’ body condition and challenging back when they receive inappropriate advice like this.”

The winners of the Awards will be presented with a prestigious green and gold rosette.

For more information on The Horse Trust’s Healthiest Body Condition Awards, visit
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