Survey: One-Third of Horses With Health Problems are Lame

The British survey results also suggest that lamenesses are more likely to originate in the limb than in the foot.
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Survey: One-Third of Horses With Health Problems are Lame
Respondents reported that 38% of horses were suffering from health problems, and of these a third (32.9%) were categorized as lame. | Photo: iStock
This year’s British National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) revealed that respondents reported that 38% of horses were suffering from health problems, and of these a third (32.9%) were categorized 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, a U.K.-based animal welfare charity, carries out the NEHS each May in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). The survey is sponsored by Dodson & Horrell and Zoetis and supported by the U.K.’s leading equestrian organizations 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 by 5,635 respondents. Most horses were kept at livery (boarding) or private yards and used for leisure and hacking. Respondents reported that 62% of horses were healthy (had no health problems recorded) and 38% of horses had one or more health problems. The most frequent disease syndrome recorded was lameness, accounting for one third of all health problems reported.

Lameness has consistently been the most common syndrome affecting horses in the NEHS results each year. In the latest survey, 32.9% of horses with health problems (24.4% in 2015) were recorded as lame. Overall, as in previous years, lameness in the limb was more common than lameness caused by problems in the foot. A breakdown of the types of lameness revealed that 47.4% were recorded as suffering from proximal limb lameness (the limb above the foot), 31.9% from causes of foot lameness other than laminitis, and 20.7% from laminitis. Degenerative joint disease (DJD, or osteoarthritis, including the foot and proximal limb) was the most frequently reported single cause of lameness (41.2% of all lameness) and the most frequently reported joint affected by DJD was the hock (15.3% of all lameness)

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