Thursday, January 20, 2011

Obesity in English horses

Obesity is likely to be just as common in horses as it is in the human population.

A University of Nottingham study found that at least one in five leisure horses was overweight or obese. Owners were likely to underestimate body condition score.

Veterinary student Helen Stephenson assessed the prevalence of obesity among horses whose owners were registered with an equine veterinary practice.

Questionnaires were sent to five hundred horse owners, and 160 were returned. None of the horses was kept for breeding, livery, riding stables, or competition, so all were classed as being used for leisure only.

One in five owners indicated 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 three indicating overweight.

The researchers then assessed the body condition of 15 randomly selected horses to see if the owners 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.

Based on the researchers’ findings, the authors estimate that the true prevalence of overweight/obesity was likely to be 54% rather than the 20% indicated by the questionnaire responses.


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