1 in 5 horses overweight or obese: Study

Washington, Jan 19 (ANI): A pilot study has found that rates of obesity among horses are likely to be just as high as they are among humans.

At least one in five horses used for leisure are overweight or obese. It's a condition that can lead to laminitis and equine metabolic syndrome.

The study, carried out by a student at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, assessed the prevalence of obesity among horses.

Five hundred owners were sent questionnaires. None of them kept horses for breeding, livery, riding stables, or competition, so were all classed as keeping their animals for leisure only.

Of the 160 returned one in five showed that their horses were either overweight or obese.

The owners were asked about their perceptions of their horses' body condition, and asked to score this from zero to five, with a score of more than 3 indicating overweight.

Grass was the main source of forage for half the horses and coarse mix was the main source of concentrate feed in a similar proportion. Only one in 10 horses was not fed any concentrate.

The researchers then assessed the body condition of 15 randomly selected horses to see if the scores had under or overestimated the horse's weight.

They assigned an average score that was significantly higher for these horses; eight of the owners had scored their horse at least one grade lower than the researcher had, indicating that the owners had underestimated their horses' weight.

On the basis of the researchers' findings, the authors estimate that the true prevalence of overweight/obesity was likely to be 54pc rather than the 20pc indicated by the questionnaire responses.

The findings have been published online on Monday 17 January 2011 in the journal Veterinary Record. (ANI)

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