Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The other side of Equine Welfare: Can too much misplaced love lead to obesity and health problems?

When thinking about equine welfare issues, the usual image of neglect or poor condition is  that of the underweight and overworked horse or donkey.  However there is another side to equine health and welfare that may not be so obvious. Studies show that horses are facing disability and life-threatening illnesses in an equine obesity epidemic mirroring the expanding waistlines of humans in ­affluent nations. Are we killing them with kindness?  

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has organised a series of equine obesity workshops after studies found that up to half the horses and ponies in Scotland are overweight.  Excessive weight can lead to a range of serious diseases that can be disabling and potentially fatal, including crippling hoof disease, hormonal dysfunction and weight-linked Type 2 diabetes. Horse owners are being warned to slim down their animals following growing evidence of an obesity epidemic that is threatening their health.

Professor Nat Waran, of the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal WelfareEducation at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, said: “There is no doubt the majority of owners want to provide the best for their animals, but sometimes too much misplaced love can lead to welfare problems because it may not be what their horse needs.

Following these studies, two articles in the news have highlighted these issues:


Welfare and health issues of the working equine are often highlighted

But studies show that equines can face  severe health issues if they are overweight  (Photo by Sannse)

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