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Survey Suggests The Prevalence Of Obesity In Horses Remains Worryingly High Even At The End Of The Winter

12 years ago

13th February, 2012 14h37

A recent survey of groups of horses spending at least six hours out at pasture has shown that more than a quarter were obese at the end of the winter months. This alarming trend may suggest that well-meaning winter management strategies such as rugging and a reduction in exercise could be having a welfare impact on the UK’s horses. The survey, conducted by the University of Bristol's Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group, in collaboration with the WALTHAM® Equine Studies Group, studied variations in body condition in small groups of horses during the month of February 2011. A cross sectional study of 127 horses and ponies was carried out in Somerset during February 2011. Herds of three or more were at grass for at least six hours a day. Their body condition scores (BCS) were assessed using the nine point system and the five point cresty neck score (CNS). The prevalence of obesity (BCS of 7 or above) was 27.6% with a slightly higher incidence in horses, while the prevalence of cresty neck (CNS of 3 or above) was 48.8% with a higher number of ponies affected. Clare Barfoot RNutr and the research and development manager at SPILLERS® said: “That such a high percentage of horses and ponies were obese as they came out of winter is concerning, while the fact that a higher number of horses than ponies were classified as obese challenges the myth that only ponies can get too fat. As horses and ponies tend to put on more weight in the spring and summer months, owners need to act now to help restore the more natural seasonal fluctuation in body condition, this can be achieved by increasing exercise intensity and feeding a more appropriate diet such as a low calorie forage with SPILLERS® Lite Balancer.” Future studies will investigate other factors potentially affecting body condition such as differences in spontaneous activity, behavioural interactions, socially mediated interference and social position within the herd.

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