A new equine muscle wastage scoring guide aims to help horse owners identify muscle wastage.

The new guide is based on the Muscle Atrophy Scoring System (MASS). Using diagrams, descriptions, and scores, it enables owners to identify muscle atrophy or ‘wastage’ in three key areas – the neck, the back, and the hindquarters. It is suitable for all adult horses, but developers hope it will be especially valuable as a health monitoring tool for senior horses and ponies.

“Although some degree of muscle wastage can occur with ageing, one of our more recent studies, in which we used the MASS, shows it may be exacerbated in those with an underlying clinical condition such as PPID (Cushing’s Syndrome),” said Sarah Nelson, product manager at Mars Horsecare. “However, the guide also provides a practical way to assess and monitor muscle loss that may occur as a result of malnutrition, injury, poor saddle fit, some forms of tying up, and certain other conditions.”

The neck, back and hindquarters are each assessed separately using one of two scales (A or B, depending on the individual’s body condition) and given a score of 1-4. A score of 1 indicates no muscle wastage whereas a score of 4 indicates severe muscle wastage.

“Ideally horse owners and carers should monitor their horse or pony’s muscle score on a monthly basis,” said Nelson. “This tool may be useful in enabling them to notice gradual muscle deterioration, that may indicate a condition that can be addressed. Sudden or severe muscle wastage may be a sign of injury or disease, especially if it is unexpected because there have been no changes in work, diet, or management routine. It’s important for owners to discuss any concerns with their vet in the first instance.”