new research shows that landlords are failing to act

  • Tackling equine obesity means more than increasing owner knowledge – and everyone has a role to play, researchers have found.

    A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science looked at the human behavioral factors surrounding equine obesity. The researchers collected data from interviews with owners and industry professionals and discussion forums and analyzed it using the COM-B model of behavior change – which addresses capability, opportunity, motivation and behavior.

    Among the findings, the study showed that most owners understood that excess body fat was a health risk for their horses, but because owners had a hard time identifying how much fat their animals had, most did not make changes to their horses. management to reduce weight until an acute health problem such as laminitis occurred. The owners in the study understood that a number of management strategies were available, but had difficulty identifying what would work in the environment in which they kept their horse.

    Lead author Tamzin Furtado, from the University of Liverpool, said H&H the model highlighted the various aspects, including physical challenges or social influences, making it difficult for owners to recognize that their horses were overweight or to manage their weight.

    “The take home message is that there is no single key driver for changing levels of equine obesity. We have to think bigger than just increasing the knowledge of the owners, because we are affected by the social norms around us and the physical environment and so on,” she said.

    “We all have our roles to play, whether you’re in a backyard or on social media, we can all support each other and help people realize that weight management is a responsible thing to do.”

    Ms Furtado added that there were “good indications” that awareness of obesity was increasing, but said the number of obese horses was not necessarily decreasing.

    “Raising awareness is a good first step, but there are lots of other things we can do, such as supporting yard managers to create environments where horses can be turned away without too much grass, but in an interesting environment.” she said.

    “Other things that work quite well are having ‘fitness clubs’, and there’s good science that shows that having an accountability buddy or teaming up with a friend to support each other can be really beneficial . Another thing people can do is share knowledge from reputable sources to make sure we’re giving people the real information. It’s all about collaboration and building on the positives we already have.”

    Sam Chubbock, World Horse Welfare’s head of UK support, said H&H that managing the weight of goodies is a “perpetual challenge” and one that a significant number of owners face.

    “Traditional approaches to equine weight management may have limited success, but this study provides a new, multifaceted path to a problem that is important to recognize as a health problem as big as horses underweight,” she said.

    “Changing weight perceptions and actions can be challenging in itself, but this study provides options and a different approach to try, which is an important addition to helping owners with this ongoing and often very difficult management issue.”

    British Equine Veterinary Association president David Rendle said behavioral studies were important for understanding health behaviors and identifying potential barriers to change.

    “Failure to use behavioral science not only compromises the potential benefits of interventions, but can result in clearly negative health impacts,” he said.

    “The models suggest that in order to change behavior, we must first understand that behavior and strive to understand the attitudes and values ​​that contribute to the performance of the behavior, as well as the social and environmental factors that make the behavior easier or more difficult to perform. execute.”

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