The owner of a Hackney cross who was described by a vet as “grossly overweight” was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering and banned by a court from keeping any equine for three years, as well as ordered to pay almost £9,000 in costs, fines and charges.

John lost more than a quarter of his body weight. Credit: Redwings

John, whose permanent ownership was transferred to Redwings Horse Sanctuary, has lost more than a quarter of his original body weight since being rescued in May 2020.

At the time of rescue, the gelding, who measures just over 15hh, weighed 612kg and had a body condition score of five on the 0-5 scale. 

The eleven-year-old was suffering from the painful effects of laminitis, aggravated by the additional pressure being put on his laminae by his excessive bodyweight.

Part of John’s immediate care on arrival at Redwings was beginning a carefully planned weight loss programme.

While weight loss was urgent, his diet needed to be managed to ensure all his nutritional, physical and psychology needs would be consistently met while gradually losing body fat.

“By seeing John’s weight loss as an essential but long-term project, our veterinary and horse care teams enabled John to lose an incredible 167kg over a 14-month period,” said a statement.

“This amounted to more than a quarter of his original body weight, and more than a third of what John’s weight would have been if his owner had monitored and managed his condition effectively.”

Ridden work was not an option, partly due to his laminitis.

“For some horses, exercise can play a significant role in helping to increase energy use alongside reducing calorie intake,” continued the statement. “However, this case shows that significant weight loss is still achievable for a non-ridden horse.”

Transformed behaviour

In addition to looking far healthier, John’s weight loss also transformed his behaviour. The often grumpy, food-obsessed gelding became far more relaxed, sociable and easier to handle.

The statement added that John’s owner had been made aware of the risk his condition posed to his health and was given practical advice on numerous occasions to help her reduce his weight.

Having ignored every effort to guide and support her, John was removed from his owner’s care and legal action was taken against her by the RSPCA.

Redwings is supporting Spillers’ new equine Slimmers’ Club. It is hoped that the new initiative, which provides owners with support, advice and encouragement to help keep their horse or pony at a healthy weight, will help people recognise that an overweight horse can be as much of a welfare risk as an underweight one.

“The Spillers Slimmers campaign is close to our hearts as we see more and more equines arrive at the Sanctuary requiring veterinary attention for conditions that could have been prevented with proper weight management,” said Nicola Knight, head of communications and campaigns at Redwings.

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