A new study, conducted by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in collaboration with the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, has identified the impact of the pandemic on equine welfare and called for new guidelines for use in the event of future pandemics. 

The objectives of the study1 were to assess the impact of the pandemic on the management of laminitis susceptible horses and ponies, to identify challenges faced in implementing COVID-19 based guidance, and to ascertain areas of decision making and policy development which could undergo improvement in future pandemic or emergency scenarios. 

Lead author Ashely Ward, a PhD student at SRUC said: "We discovered that lockdown-associated factors had the potential to compromise the welfare of horses and ponies at risk of obesity and laminitis.

“These included: disparate information and guidance, difficulties enacting public health measures in yard environments, and horses having reduced exercise during the pandemic. 

"Our conclusion was that guidelines should be developed for the care of horses and ponies at risk through collaborative input from veterinary and welfare experts. This would help to reduce the negative impacts of future lockdown events in the UK.” 

Clare Barfoot RNutr, Marketing and Research and Development Director at Spillers said: “This work carries important recommendations to reduce equine welfare risks during any future lockdowns.

“This summer our primary focus has been on helping horse owners keep their horses at a healthy weight to reduce the risks associated with obesity, in particular laminitis. Until formal guidelines are developed we hope our range of practical advice, available online and via our Care-Line will help, should there be another lockdown."

The study was conducted in tandem with research looking at how the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown affected horse on the human/animal interaction. The conclusion, disseminated by SRUC last week, concluded that the coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of horse owners. https://www.sruc.ac.uk/all-news/horse-power-helps-owners-through-lockdown


  1. Ward AB, Stephen K, Argo CM, Harris PA, Watson CA, Neacsu M, et al. (2021) COVID-19 impacts equine welfare: Policy implications for laminitis and obesity. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0252340. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0252340 

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