3 Dimensional photonic scans for measuring body volume and muscle mass in the standing horse

Stephanie J. Valberg, Amanda K. Borer Matsui, Anna M. Firshman, Lauren Bookbinder, Scott A. Katzman, Carrie J. Finno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


REASONS FOR PERFORMING STUDY: Although muscle mass strongly influences performance, there is currently no effective means to measure the 3-dimensional muscle mass of horses. We evaluated a 3-dimensional (3D) scanning methodology for its ability to quantify torso and hindquarter volumes as a proxy for regional muscle mass in horses.

OBJECTIVES: Determine the repeatability of 3D scanning volume (V) measurements and their correlation to body weight, estimated body volume and muscle/fat ultrasound (US) depth.

METHODS: Handheld 3D photonic scans were performed on 16 Quarter Horses of known body weight 56 days apart (n = 32 scans) with each scan performed in duplicate (n = 32 replicates). Tail head fat, gluteal and longissimus dorsi muscle depths were measured using US. Processed scans were cropped to isolate hindquarter (above hock, caudal to tuber coxae) and torso (hindquarter plus dorsal thoracolumbar region) segments and algorithms used to calculate V. Torso and hindquarter volume were correlated with body weight and US using Pearson's correlation and with estimated torso volume (50% body weight / body density) with Bland-Altman analysis.

RESULTS: Scans took 2 min with < 3.5% error for duplicate scans. Torso volume (R = 0.90, P< 0.001) and hindquarter volume (R = 0.82, P< 0.001) strongly correlated with body weight and estimated BV (R = 0.91) with low bias. Torso volume moderately correlated to mean muscle US depth (R = 0.4, P< 0.05) and tail head fat (R = 0.42, P< 0.01). Mean muscle US depth moderately correlated to body weight (R = 0.50, P< 0.01).

MAIN LIMITATIONS: 3D Scans determine body volume not muscle volume.

CONCLUSIONS: The hand-held 3D scan provided a rapid repeatable assessment of torso and hindquarter volume strongly correlated to body weight and estimated volume. Superimposition of regional scans and volume measures could provide a practical means to follow muscle development when tail head fat depth remain constant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0229656
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Valberg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Adipose Tissue/anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Horses/anatomy & histology
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional/instrumentation
  • Male
  • Muscles/anatomy & histology
  • Optical Devices/veterinary
  • Ultrasonography/veterinary

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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