British horse owners within the leisure sector may not be that good at identifying overweight horses by appearance alone, research suggests.
Researchers carried out an internet-based survey distributed through British-based equine forums.
Horse owners were presented with 12 side-on images of horses and ponies. Six of the animals had been formally assessed as being overweight.
They were asked to identify the overweight animals and also invited to score animals for their suitability in taking part in different equestrian activities on the basis of body weight.
In all, 546 horse owners responded to the survey, 98 percent of whom were female. Eighty-one percent described themselves as amateur owners and 19 percent as professional owners.
Only 11 percent correctly identified all six overweight animals, but between 37 and 98 percent correctly identified individual overweight animals.
Professional status did not influence an owner’s ability to identify overweight animals, Philippa Morrison and her colleagues reported in the journal, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.
On assessing the weight/condition suitability of a sport horse, a cob and a pony for different disciplines, being overweight was considered more appropriate when animals were intended to be used for showing, they reported.
“The study provided evidence that owner’s may be less able to correctly identify overweight animals by visual appearance alone,” the researchers said.
They said the survey results supported their anecdotal understanding that owners considered it appropriate that horses and ponies should carry more weight when competing in showing classes.
Morrison was joined in the study by Patricia Harris, Charlotte Maltin, Dai Grove-White, Caroline Argo and Clare Barfoot.
An overview of their findings was published in the journal as part of the supplement, Animal Obesity – causes, consequences and comparative aspects: meeting abstracts.
Perceptions of obesity in a UK leisure-based population of horse owners
Philippa Morrison, Patricia Harris, Charlotte Maltin, Dai Grove-White, Caroline Argo and Clare Barfoot.
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 2015, 57(Suppl 1):O6 doi:10.1186/1751-0147-57-S1-O6
The original journal material can be read here.
The original material was published as an open-access article.