Investigator(s): British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), led by Professor Celia Marr. With additional support from Merial Animal Health.
Laminitis is a painful and debilitating condition that affects the feet of horses and ponies. This four year study looked at the factors that affect the likelihood of recovery from laminitis and found it clear that obese animals were far more likely to die.
According to Professor Marr, "it has been known for a long-time that excessive body condition predisposed horses and ponies to laminitis. Our AWF study was important because it documented for the first time that not only does obesity increase the risk of laminitis, but when overweight horses get laminitis, they are more likely to die as a result compared to laminitis cases which are not overweight".
Since the work was published the problem of equine obesity has been addressed by several research groups in UK and abroad. A group in Australia lead by Petra Buckley has shown that overweight horses and those that are exercised infrequently are more likely to misbehave. There is also a much better understanding of the metabolic and hormonal derangements that are caused by obesity. Excessive body condition is linked to abnormalities in insulin function, and this in turn can be associated not only with laminitis but also with lethargy, sheath swelling and other signs of ill-health.