Tuesday, 2 April 2013

British beasts of burden: Obese UK riders put horses’ health at risk

Many UK riders need to lose weight before climbing on to a horse. According to the latest study, one-third of riders are too heavy for their mounts, turning them into ‘beasts of burden’ and risking the animals' health. 

According to the vets, riders should weigh not more than 10 per cent of their mount’s mass. An average riding horse weights around 500kg; 10 per cent of this is 50kg.

Researchers from the Duchy College in Cornwall revealed that only 5 per cent of riders weighed less than 10 per cent of the weight of their horse, while over 63 per cent weighed between 10 and 15 per cent of the horse’s weight.

Some 32 per cent weighed more than 15 per cent of the weight of their steed, posing health risks to the animal.

Meanwhile, according to veterinarians, a heavy rider is a threat to a horse’s health, potentially causing back pains, arthritis in knees and hip joints and bad behavior.

“It is definitely a potential welfare issue,” Dr. Hayley Randle, an equitation scientist who took part in the research, was quoted as saying.

The results of the analysis that involved 152 horses were recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour.

Randle noted that although those are “broad-brush guidelines” which don’t take into account all factors, such as the age of the horse, its breed or the experience of the rider, “they are still important and helpful, and people are not taking enough notice of them.”

And while a riding school won’t let you ride a horse if you are too heavy for it, it’s often private owners who are harming their own horses.

“People tend to think that horses are such big animals they must be OK, and not to take notice of the weight issue of riders,” Randle said.

“But the health impact on the horse can be quite extreme, quite quickly. It seems to be a growing problem,” she added.

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