British horse groups pledge support to equine survey

Skin diseases including rain scald were the most prevalent syndrome, the Blue Cross survey found
Skin diseases were the most prevalent syndrome, the Blue Cross survey found.

Three major British equestrian groups have pledged their support the National Equine Health Survey, which is run by the animal welfare charity Blue Cross.

The British Horse Society, British Riding Clubs and The Pony Club have all signed up to the initiative, which collects data from Britain’s owners and keepers of horses, ponies and donkeys twice a year to provide a valuable insight into their general health.

It is hoped their support and combined memberships will ensure the 2012 surveys are the biggest yet.

In addition, Pfizer Animal Health has announced its sponsorship of the 2012 surveys, helping Blue Cross to cover the costs of running the scheme.

Blue Cross education officer Kerry Taylor said the organisation was thrilled with the support. “[It] will give a huge boost to this year’s surveys.”

The survey, she said, was getting bigger each year, “and the more data we collect, the more valuable it becomes”.

The last survey was conducted from November 14 to 20 last year, with data submitted on 5699 horses and ponies and 286 donkeys and mules – the biggest sample size so far.

Information was collected from a broad cross-section of the equine industry, the majority being private owners.

Professor Josh Slater, Professor of Equine Clinical Studies at The Royal Veterinary College, has been working with Blue Cross on the surveys and interprets the data.

The results were broadly similar to those of the previous surveys in May 2011 and November 2010.

Taylor commented: “We’re pleased to see a similar pattern emerging between the different surveys, which helps to authenticate previous findings.

“Now it’s really important that people keep taking part so we can continue building on this knowledge to help improve the future health of our nation’s horses.”

British Horse Society chief executive Graham Cory said the survey was already proving to be a valuable guide on the general health of horses and ponies in Britain, and his society was pleased to  support the project.

“We hope that all our members will recognise the importance of taking part in the next survey in May.”

The next survey is planned for May 7-13, and visitors to Badminton Horse Trials will be able to submit information at the Blue Cross stand for the first time.

All keepers and owners of horses are urged to participate and details will remain anonymous.

Each survey takes only about five minutes. To register online visit or email

Top findings from last year’s survey:

  1. Skin diseases: Skin problems such as melanoma, sweet itch, sarcoids, mud fever and cracked heels were the most prevalent syndrome recorded in 19% of horses and ponies – an increase on both previous surveys. This suggests a need for raising awareness of skin disease management and prevention amongst the veterinary industry and horse owners.
  2. Weight issues: 8.6% horses and ponies were recorded as overweight, which was the next most common syndrome recorded. While this was in line with the previous surveys, it is much lower than estimates from other sources and does rely on owner interpretation.
  3. Lameness: This was recorded in 8.3% of horses and ponies, a decrease from the May 2011 survey (11.8%). While foot lameness is generally perceived to be the most prevalent cause, it was recorded less frequently in this survey (3.4%) than lameness due to problems elsewhere (4.9%).
  4. Wounds: These were a common problem in all NEHS surveys and recorded in 5% of horses and ponies in the latest survey – a slight increase on previous surveys (4%).
  5. Laminitis: This was recorded in 4.9% of horses and ponies, which is an increase on previous surveys but lower than the usual estimates in the veterinary literature which are nearer to 7%.

These findings strongly suggest that the current literature over-estimates the prevalence of laminitis.

» Earlier report

Disease syndromes ranked
Disease syndromes ranked - click to view full size

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