Heavy horses

Obesity is a major problem for humans in the Western world. Now it seems that the problem may not be confined to our species as a new English study reveals that many horses kept for leisure purposes are also carrying dangerously excess weight.

In a new English study involving hundreds of horses, owners were surveyed and it was found that twenty per cent of horses were overweight or obese. However, on checking true obesity rates against owner estimates, the researchers suggest that a more accurate figure would be that a staggering 54 per cent of horses in the study were overweight or obese. The horses in the study were not breeders or those kept for competition; they were leisure horses only.

It might be tempting to think what do a few extra kilos matter for a pampered horse but in fact they are a serious health threat. In horses being overweight can lead to equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis.

Equine metabolic syndrome involves insensitivity to insulin, as in diabetes, and abnormal fat deposits in the neck, shoulders, loin, above the eyes and around the tail head even when the rest of the body appears to be in normal condition. Sometimes horses with EMS can become pot-bellied, have excessive thirst, and general fatigue.

Laminitis is also a serious condition. In the hoof of a horse there are around 600 intertwined laminae. Being overweight has been shown to lead to separation and inflammation of these laminae. For the horse this means that abscesses can form within the hoof and can become very painful. Horses with laminitis become anxious, can sweat a lot, and as it progresses will do anything to stay off the affected foot, even if it means just lying down.

Alas, it seems that the term “heavy horses” may no longer be reserved for Clydesdales. Obesity is becoming a problem not only for humans but also for the animals that we are supposed to be nurturing. Surely one of the responsibilities of humanity is to keep those animals which we corral for our purposes in a healthy state and that means at a healthy weight as well.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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