Join the charge: 1000 more horses needed for on-going laminitis study


Recent laminitis research in Britain has revealed that half of laminitis cases might not be recognised as such by horse owners.

The CARE about Laminitis study has explored “the presence of agreement between owners and vets” as to whether a horse had laminitis. From several clinically diagnosed laminitis cases reported via veterinary practices, horse owners had not suspected laminitis as the problem in about half of the cases.

To help motivate horse owners to join the study, leading international charity World Horse Welfare has produced an innovative short film featuring several of its rescue horses.

The film features a wide range of horses and their grooms taking action against laminitis and has already received more than 62,000 views on World Horse Welfare’s Facebook page alone. It was released for national CARE Day (February 10), where many people and organisations shared messages about the study to boost sign ups – achieving almost 200 new registrations to join the research.

CARE is the first and largest web-based equine cohort study in Britain. Studies where a large group of members are recruited and continue to regularly contribute information over time, are called cohort studies.  They’ve been extensively used in human medicine and are responsible for important findings that link lifestyle factors to an increased or decreased risk of developing certain diseases. The CARE study has set out to do exactly that for horses, in its mission to determine how common laminitis is and which equine lifestyle factors affect its development.

PHD student Dee Pollard, who is leading the study, said laminitis is ranked as one of the top health concerns by both horse owners and vets.

Some of World Horse Welfare's rescue horses star in the charity's "Join the charge" video promoting the CARE About Laminitis study.
Some of World Horse Welfare’s rescue horses star in the charity’s “Join the charge” video promoting the CARE About Laminitis study.

“Most horse owners will have either had experience of laminitis themselves or will know of someone who has. However, it is a notoriously complex disease and diagnosis is not always straightforward. There are no clinical signs that are present in every case and laminitis can initially masquerade as another clinical problem, such as an abscess or colic,” Pollard said.

“This makes it even more vital to raise awareness about the disease, to ensure earlier detection, and to support research that helps find out how we can best prevent it developing in the first place.”

Laminitis can affect any horse regardless of age, size or breed, so every horse owner can make a valuable contribution by joining the CARE study and this is a concept which is now brought to life through World Horse Welfare’s unique ‘Join the Charge’ video.

The CARE study, undertaken by the Animal Health Trust and Royal Veterinary College, funded by World Horse Welfare and supported by Rossdales Equine Hospital, aims to help unite the equine community to shed light on laminitis.

“We need a collaborative effort by all horse owners, professionals and researchers to both increase awareness about laminitis and, in time, to help make early recognition of laminitis less deceptive,” Pollard said.

CARE members submit regular information about their equines’ health and management online. The initial baseline questionnaire covers all aspects of the horse’s environment, activity, nutrition and daily care. Following this, members are asked to check in regularly and, if required, update these details. They also have access to an online weight tracker to monitor their horse’s weight and body condition. Many existing members find this routine of reporting information, especially the visual weight tracker, invaluable in helping make the right decisions to keep their horses healthy. Participation is open to all types, ages, sizes and breeds of horses/ponies, whether or not they have ever had laminitis.

Owners of more than 1500 horses and ponies have signed up to CARE already, but a further thousand are needed. Their contribution will improve the welfare of horses throughout Britain.

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