Academics and industry members have welcomed “useful and surprising” findings from the UK’s first-ever national survey of endemic equine diseases.

Academics and industry members have welcomed “useful and surprising” findings from the UK’s first-ever survey of endemic equine diseases.

Results of the National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) – which surveyed more than 3,000 horses over the course of one week in November 2010 – were announced at the National Equine Forum (NEF) earlier this week.   

The top 3 equine issues, as revealed by the 1st National Equine Health Survey, are lameness, weight problems and skin disease.Common issues included:

  • Lameness (11%),
  • Weight problems (9% overweight, 8% underweight), and
  • Skin disease (5%).

Lee Hackett
, head of welfare at the British Horse Society, welcomed the results, but admitting that he had been surprised by some of the findings.

He said: “I was quite surprised at the relatively low prevalence of laminitis – lower than would be expected – but I wonder if that reflects the type of horses surveyed, we might find [in future] it’s higher than that. Colic was also lower than I would have expected.”

Lameness was the most common condition seen (11%), however, most cases were not foot-related. Also, fewer cases of laminitis (3%) were reported than the 7-8% prevalence suggested by past surveys.

Weight management was the second biggest issue, with 9% of horses recorded as overweight and 8% underweight. The figures are lower than expected, however, researchers believe this could be because of subjective owner perceptions around their animal’s weight.

Skin problems such as sarcoids were also common (5%) and colic was seen in 2% of the horses surveyed.

Josh Slater.The findings were presented by BEVA past-president and RVC lecturer Josh Slater.

Speaking after the event he told vetsonline: “This kind of data has never been collected before and is invaluable to the veterinary profession and wider animal welfare industry, helping to inform our future research, training and education.”

However, Prof Slater was keen not to overstate the NEHS findings, saying the results would be more “meaningful” if the number of samples exceeded 10,000 equines. With this in mind, both BEVA and The Blue Cross are aiming to get data from even more horses in their next survey periods in May and November this year.

Animal Health Trust epidemiologist Richard Newton said he looked forward to the forthcoming NEHS surveys and that he would like to see how owner reports compare with the disease findings of vets in practice.  

He told vetsonline it was “a good initiative” but said: “I have been a little worried that it’s self selecting with its horse owners, but because it’s based on syndromic information it’s data that has really not been collected anywhere else.”
The next NEHS is planned for May 9-15 and all horse owners and keepers can take part anonymously. To register online visit or email
For more details about the scheme or to view the raw findings contact Kerry Doyle at The Blue Cross on 01993 867224 or email

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