During this year’s National Equine Health Survey, 38% of horses were recorded as suffering from health problems and of these a third were categorised as lame.
Consistent with previous surveys, lameness was shown to be more likely to be caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis in the limb rather than problems in the foot.
Blue Cross carries out NEHS in May each year, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA).
It is sponsored by Dodson & Horrell and Zoetis and supported by the UK’s leading equestrian organisations and charities.
This year saw a 14% increase in participation compared to 2015, with survey records returned for almost 16,751 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules and 5635 people taking part.
Most horses were kept in livery or a private yard and used for leisure and hacking. 62% of horses were healthy (i.e. had no health problems recorded) and 38% of horses had one or more health problems recorded.
The most frequent disease syndrome recorded was lameness, accounting for one third of all problems reported.
Josh Slater from the Royal Veterinary College, who is a member of BEVA’s Health & Medicines Committee and analysed the NEHS data, said: “The data gleaned from the Survey remains consistent year on year, confirming the reliability of our findings for benchmarking, referencing and research.
"This year’s increase in overall lameness may be in part attributed to the higher incidence of pus in the foot but may also be because owners are becoming more aware of lameness issues."
The six most notable disease syndromes identified in the 2016 National Equine Health Survey of horses/ponies recorded as suffering from health problems are:
1. Lameness 32.9% including laminitis (compared to 24.4% in 2015, 21% in 2014, 19.2% in 2013 and 12.9% in 2010-12).
2. Skin diseases (sweet itch, mud fever, rainscald, external parasites, skin tumours and wounds) 25.5% compared to 17.2% in 2015 (18.3% in 2014, 14.6% in 2013 and 15.2% in 2010-12).
3. Laminitis 6.8% compared to 6.4% in 2015 (7.1% in 2014, 4.4% in 2013 and 3.6% in 2010-12).
4. PPID (‘Equine Cushing’s Disease) 6.6%. This is similar to the high prevalence of PPID reported in 2015 (6.4%) and 2014 (5.6%) and possibly reflects increased surveillance through sponsored testing programmes as opposed to true increases in prevalence from the pre-2014 surveys.
5. Recurrent Airway Obstruction 5.6% compared to 6.7% in 2015 (6.9% in 2014, 4.2% in 2013 and 3.6% in 2010-12).
6. Back problems 5.5% compared to 7% in 2015 (7.7% in 2014, 5% in 2013 and 3% in 2010-12).
Further news on the important findings of this year’s NEHS will be disclosed as it becomes available. The 2016 NEHS survey results are now available. To download a copy visit http://www.bluecross.org.uk/nehs2016results and to register for next year’s survey please visit www.bluecross.org.uk/nehs