Taking stock: Survey to provide snapshot of equine health in Britain

British horse owners are being urged to register to take part in this year’s National Equine Health Survey, which helps identify, prioritise, and address the most common diseases and problems.

Run by leading charity Blue Cross, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association, the survey is a unique opportunity for horse owners to give feedback about the health of their horses, ponies and donkeys.

The survey is anonymous and quick to complete; five minutes of your time is all you need to give.

Over the past six years NEHS has developed to become one of the UK’s most important endemic disease monitoring initiative. The results are referenced in leading veterinary and equestrian publications and papers and are regarded as valuable benchmarks for the general knowledge of horse health.

Skin diseases including rain scald were the most prevalent syndrome, the Blue Cross survey found
The prevalence of skin diseases has risen in recent years, the National Equine Health Survey has found.

Last year survey records were returned for almost 17,000 horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules. The six most notable disease syndromes identified (recorded as percentages of those recorded as suffering from health problems) were:

  1. Lameness 32.9% including laminitis (compared to 24.4% in 2015, 21% in 2014, 19.2% in 2013 and 12.9% in 2010-12).
  2. Skin diseases (sweet itch, mud fever, rainscald, external parasites, skin tumours and wounds) 25.5% compared to 17.2% in 2015 (18.3% in 2014, 14.6% in 2013 and 15.2% in 2010-12).
  3. Laminitis 6.8% compared to 6.4% in 2015 (7.1% in 2014, 4.4% in 2013 and 3.6% in 2010-12).
  4. PPID (‘Equine Cushing’s Disease) 6.6%. This is similar to the high prevalence of PPID reported in 2015 (6.4%) and 2014 (5.6%) and possibly reflects increased surveillance through sponsored testing programmes as opposed to true increases in prevalence from the pre-2014 surveys.
  5. Recurrent Airway Obstruction 5.6% compared to 6.7% in 2015 (6.9% in 2014, 4.2% in 2013 and 3.6% in 2010-12).
  6. Back problems 5.5% compared to 7% in 2015 (7.7% in 2014, 5% in 2013 and 3% in 2010-12).

The next survey is planned for May 22 to 29, and there are prizes for those taking part, including Lister Star Clippers and a Burford Ariat Wellington Boots.

Josh Slater
Professor Josh Slater

The survey results are interpreted by Professor Josh Slater, Professor of Equine Clinical Studies at The Royal Veterinary College.

Blue Cross Education Officer Gemma Taylor said: “Please put the date in your diary now and persuade your friends to do the same. The more data we can collect from the National Equine Health Survey the more robust our results will be, helping us to steer equine awareness, education and research to keep our horses healthier.”

Supporters of NEHS include the British Horse Society, Horse Trust, Redwings and the Pony Club. Zoetis UK Ltd and Dodson and Horrell are supporting the initiative by helping Blue Cross cover the costs of running the scheme.

Visit www.bluecross.org.uk/NEHS to register (above Factsheets) or email NEHS@bluecross.org.uk to register. 

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