A Third of Horses Recorded With Health Problems Are Lame Reveals Horse Survey

Results from this year’s National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) showed 38% of horses were recorded as suffering from health problems and of these a third (32.9%) were categorised as lame. Consistent with previous surveys lameness was shown to be more likely to be caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis in the limb rather than problems in the foot.


Blue Cross carries out NEHS in May each year, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). It is sponsored by Dodson & Horrell and Zoetis and supported by the UK’s leading equestrian organisations and charities.

This year saw a 14% increase in participation compared to 2015, with survey records returned for almost 16,751 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules and 5635 people taking part. Most horses were kept in livery or a private yard and used for leisure and hacking.


62% of horses were healthy (i.e. had no health problems recorded) and 38% of horses had one or more health problems recorded. The most frequent disease syndrome recorded was lameness, accounting for one third of all problems reported.


Reports of foot lameness (excluding laminitis) more than doubled this year at 10.5% (4.5% in 2015) of all syndromes reported with pus in the foot being the most frequently recorded problem. This could possibly be attributed to the persistent wet weather during and prior to the survey, which can increase susceptibility to the condition.

Josh Slater from the Royal Veterinary College, who is a member of BEVA’s Health & Medicines Committee and analysed the NEHS data, said: “The data gleaned from the Survey remains consistent year on year, confirming the reliability of our findings for benchmarking, referencing and research. This year’s increase in overall lameness may be in part attributed to the higher incidence of pus in the foot but may also be because owners are becoming more aware of lameness issues.


“Ongoing research on lameness has generated significant media coverage over the past year, helping to raise understanding of the importance of accurate diagnosis and treatment both from welfare and performance perspectives.”

Gemma Taylor, Education Officer at Blue Cross said: “The significant increase in participation again this year shows that owners and keepers of horses are really getting behind the Survey and recognising its importance in safeguarding the future health and of the UK’s horses.

"Over the past year NEHS data has been referred to in leading equestrian and veterinary media, showing its credibility as a valuable benchmarking reference.”

Further news on the important findings of this year’s NEHS will be disclosed as it becomes available. The 2016 NEHS survey results are now available. To download a copy visit http://www.bluecross.org.uk/nehs2016results and to register for next year’s survey please visit www.bluecross.org.uk/nehs