Vets Warn That Overweight Horses Are Becoming The New Normal
Leading equine vets have warned that over half of the horses in the UK are overweight due to owners having forgotten how to keep them healthy.
According to the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), hundreds of horses are being put down each year as a result of obesity.
They say that obesity is the biggest threat facing horses at the moment.
A member of BEVA’s ethics and welfare committees, David Rendle, said that recent studies have shown that around half of all UK horses are now overweight. In addition to that, studies from the Royal Veterinary College found that as much as 70 percent of native pony breeds were obese.
Laminitis is a fatal condition caused by lack of blood to the horse's hooves, which causes swelling and inflammation. When a horse is overweight, they are at risk of suffering from laminitis.
Currently, around 600 horses are put down a year as a result of suffering from laminitis.
Mr Rendle said that equine experts aren't expecting the number of overweight horses to improve as horse and pony owners aren’t able to recognise or determine a healthy weight for their animals anymore.
He said: "Overweight has become normal and horse owners no longer appreciate what a healthy horse should look like. Show horses are often obese, so this is what people aspire to."
An RSPCA manager said that horses who have contracted laminitis remain at risk even if the disease is caught and treated early on.
"Once a horse gets laminitis once, it’s more prone to it. If a horse is overweight, it’s always at a greater risk of laminitis."
It’s said that horses have evolved and are able to cope by losing weight in the winter and regaining it by spring but improvements to land mean that horses are able to graze throughout the winter.
Others say that modern-day practices such as blanketing your horse during the winter have inhibited their ability to burn calories by using energy to keep themselves warm.
Often horse owners can overfeed their horses, especially foals, which does lead to obesity.
"We advise owners to monitor their horses' weight regularly, using a combination of weight taping and body condition or fat scoring.”