By Kathy Carter
We scour the equestrian world for news and views on nutrition and veterinary matters, to give you the latest information.
Referrals to leading veterinary advisor
Riders often link saddle-fitting problems and equine back pain to loss of performance. However, recent studies showed that 46% of horses within the study group were lame or had gait abnormalities, and that 43% of saddles were ill-fitting. Surely a much bigger proportion of the riding population than would be anticipated? Addressing these large numbers, the Saddle Research Trust (SRT) has launched a new referral scheme to help riders tackle serious, saddle-related problems.
The new scheme aims to help owners resolve their saddle-related problems, with leading veterinary expertise. Potential equine cases can be submitted to the SRT for an initial assessment, and if deemed suitable, will be passed with the permission of the animal’s vet to the SRT’s veterinary advisor Sue Dyson at the Animal Health Trust, for a full assessment. The assessment costs £335 plus VAT.
November’s Saddle Research Trust International Conference, to be held in Cambridge, will showcase the referral scheme. Find out more at www.saddleresearchtrust.com
Time to feed fat?
Many owners like to add fat to their horse’s diets for calorific purposes as winter approaches. It can be fed in relatively small amounts to provide calories without feeding a big grain ration that could lead to digestive challenges like colic or laminitis. Corn or vegetable oil, rice bran or flax seed products are popular choices, and any feed that contains more than about 3.5% fat is considered to be ‘fat-supplemented’. However, it is wise to remember that oils have no incidental nutrient value, just fat calories (unless you are feeding a specific balancer or supplement that is pre-balanced). Hence, if you need to feed less hard feed if you are giving oil, so that your horse does not get too fat, ensure you have not imbalanced his ration. For advice, look at the website of your feed manufacturer, call their feed helpline, or seek advice from an independent nutritionist.
Horses don’t favour males or females
A study claims that horses do not favour a particular sex of rider. Austrian scientists analysed how horses are affected by the sex of their riders, using parameters of stress. Natascha Ille of the Graf Lehndorff Institute Vienna, author of the recent article in the Journal of Comparative Exercise Physiology, believes that the stress responses of male and female riders are essentially the same. As Ille notes, “It is often assumed that women are more sensitive towards their horses than men.” However, the study of eight horses and sixteen riders (eight men and eight women), which monitored saliva cortisol and heart rates, found that equine stress levels were not affected by the sex of the rider.
Horses help reduce human stress
So, the stress responses of male and female riders are essentially the same, and horses supposedly don’t prefer being ridden by men or women – however, new research from America’s Washington State University has shown that horses definitely help reduce stress in humans.
According to the Science Daily website, the American Psychological Association’s team is the first evidence-based research within the field of human-equine interaction to measure a change in the humane stress hormone, cortisol.
An after-school programme serving 130 typically developing children over a two-year period found that children who had participated in the 12-week programme had significantly lower stress hormone levels throughout the day and in the afternoon than children that had not, demonstrating the therapeutic effects of being with horses.