Nearly a third of horses involved in a British study were assessed as obese by their owners.
The finding adds growing weight to concerns in Britain over the level of obesity among its horses.
The researchers, whose findings have been published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, set about estimating the prevalence of owner-reported obesity in horses and ponies registered with veterinary practices in Britain.
Charlotte Robins and her colleagues also sought to identify factors associated with obesity.
A cross-sectional survey of horse and pony owners in Britain was conducted using a postal questionnaire.
Thirty veterinary practices randomly selected horse and pony owners to complete the questionnaire. Owners estimated body condition score using a modified Carroll and Huntington method (1-6 scale).
Animals were classified as obese if they were scored as either 5 (fat) or 6 (very fat).
Questionnaires were received back covering 792 horses, with owners classifying 247 of them as obese (scoring either a 5 or a 6), representing 31.2 percent of the animals.
Factors associated with increased odds of obesity were breed, ease of maintaining weight and the animals’ primary use. Draught-type, cob-type, native, and Welsh breeds were more likely to be obese than thoroughbreds.
Animals described as “good doers” were more likely to be obese compared to those described as readily maintaining normal weight, Robins and her colleagues reported.
Compared to competition animals, animals used for pleasure riding and non-ridden animals were also more likely to be obese.
The researchers said the identification of risk factors would enable optimal targeting of owner education over management strategies to reduce equine obesity.
The study is entitled, “Prevalence of and risk factors for equine obesity in Great Britain based on owner-reported body condition scores”.
In 2011, another British study found that at least one in five horses used for leisure was overweight or obese.
Two years earlier, British-based charity World Horse Welfare warned that obesity was at epidemic levels among horses in Britain.
It cited research indicating 35 to 45 percent of horses were overweight or obese across the country.
Around half of all companion animals were obese in Western civilisation, the charity said.
Prevalence of and risk factors for equine obesity in Great Britain based on owner-reported body condition scores
Robin C. A. Ireland J. L., Wylie C. E., Collins S. N., Verheyen K. L. P. and Newton J. R.
The abstract can be found here.