What are the biggest equine health problems that horse owners have to address?

A survey by Bedmax has revealed that respiratory disease is the biggest equine health problem for UK owners.

More than 45 percent of the 993 owners who completed the survey had horses who had a health problem, as opposed to an injury, that required crate rest and/or veterinary treatment.

Just over 30 percent reported that it was related to a respiratory health or disease. All previous Bedmax Equine Health surveys have given similar results.

Equine veterinarian Peter “Spike” Milligan said respiratory health is central to a horse’s well-being.

“If not properly treated and managed, there can be long-term effects on the lungs that can reduce life expectancy in some horses,” he said. “Apart from equine influenza and herpes virus, the most common respiratory problems are multifactorial, but inhalation of airborne particles and irritation of the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract is one very common factor.”

The survey found that 90 percent of horses are either kept at home or on a DIY Livery, with recreational riding being the most popular activity for horses.

In general, the most important health problems suffered by horses were:

  • 30 percent of respiratory diseases
  • 21% had laminitis
  • 20% arthritis
  • 12% mud fever
  • 10% Hoof disease, cracking, infection

Hygiene was also a major priority in the respondents’ choice of bedding, underscoring growing concerns about biosecurity in the stables where most horses spend at least half their lives. More than 70 percent of owners confirmed that in the winter months they keep their horses in the stable for at least twelve out of every twenty-four hours.

The cost of the horses’ health problems was also an important issue. Of the 520 owners who responded to a request to state their veterinary costs for treatment of health problems, more than 40 per cent paid more than £1,000 for treatment; 22 percent paid more than £2,000.

The loss of use was also significant, with more than 55 percent of horse owners with equine health problems saying their horses had been at crate rest and/or not ridden for more than a month.

More than 90 percent of respondents said they let local farmers (66 percent) compost their used beds or gardeners (25 percent) to put back into the soil.

“Our annual survey is a really useful exercise because it helps us find out what horse owners are struggling with and what is really important to them,” said Tim Smalley, Managing Director of Bedmax.

“It is interesting to see that respiratory disease remains the most prevalent health issue for horses. At Bedmax, we make fresh pine sawdust, which provides a unique anti-bacterial action against harmful bacteria and fungi. We also dry our shavings at sterilizing temperatures and extract every dust particle Airborne that we can use during production, to help avoid this particular problem.

“I am fully committed to producing the best quality horse bedding, and I am really proud of our team at Bedmax. Our recent NOPS accreditation is a testament to our hard work, as we are the only producer to date to have received this award.”

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