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Tackling the growing problem of horse obesity

The vastly growing problem of horse obesity will be the subject of three coming SAC Consulting events with the first held just outside Glasgow on Friday 29 August.

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The vastly growing problem of horse obesity will be the subject of three coming SAC Consulting events with the first held just outside Glasgow on Friday 29 August. The Equine Obesity Workshops will tackle a number of key topics in this area including; diet, in particular how certain grass mixes can lead to weight gain, diseases associated with excess weight such as laminitis, and how to help horses maintain their weight naturally.

SAC Consulting equine expert, Gillian McKnight, who is organising the events, hopes that stable owners, as well as individual horse owners, will come along to the event to find out how to keep their horses as fit and healthy as possible.

She says: “There is an epidemic of equine obesity and associated diseases. Horses in the wild would live off sparse, poor grassland and historically they would gain weight in the summer and use the excess weight to get through hard winters. Now, of course their lifestyles are very different. Many horses now are kept on improved agricultural grassland specially grown to help cattle and sheep gain weight quickly and horses don’t get enough exercise to burn off fat by searching for food, running from predators or playing as part of a herd. Also, they are well cared for in the winter, so they are often already overweight in the spring when they then get access to high quality grass which fattens them further.”

Obesity in horses is a huge concern as just like in humans it makes them more susceptible to certain diseases. In horses these include laminitis; a disease of the hooves which can hinder the horse’s ability to walk; equine metabolic syndrome, and Cushing’s disease which affects the pituitary gland.

There will be a number of experts in veterinary care speaking at the event including Professor Derek Knottenbelt, Chairman, British Horse Society Scotland, and Natalie Waran, Professor of Animal Welfare Education at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

As well as presentations on obesity-related diseases and diet, there will also be more information on what is termed ‘equine naturalisation’. This concept is about providing horses with a more natural, healthy lifestyle by allowing foraging and more natural herd behaviours for the mental and physical well being of the horses.

Some of the talks will be available to watch at home using a live stream on the internet. Those interested in this option will be given a web address and log in details once they have registered for the event.

The event is free and lunch is provided but please book in advance by calling 01463 233 266. This event has been funded by the Scottish Government as part of the Scottish Funding Council Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Programme.



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