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Bedmax survey reveals winter threats to horses

Bedmax bedding stabled horse

The results of the Bedmax 2018 Equine Health Survey have demonstrated very clearly that UK horse owners face some major problems trying to keep their horses healthy in their stables.

Over 40% of more than 900 owners who responded told Bedmax that their horses had suffered health problems that required veterinary treatment and/or rest during the six winter months – the months when the majority of horses in the UK spend more than 12 hours out of every 24 in their stables.

The Bedmax Survey

In this survey (exactly as they did in the 2017 survey and in the last Blue Cross National Survey), UK horse owners confirmed that by far the biggest equine health problems for stabled horses during the winter are respiratory disease and hoof disease.

Data from the survey

• Owners who completed the survey > 908
• Total number of horses owned > 2,400 +
• Main activities: Leisure riding > 37% Dressage > 20% Eventing > 18%
• Horses kept at home > 47% DIY livery > 43%

The survey asked respondents to report equine health issues they had experienced during the winter months because that is when horses in the UK are kept in their stables for the longest periods.

Fewer than 10% of owners reported that their horses spent less than 12 hours every 24 in their stables. Nearly 40% of owners reported that their horses spent over 15 hours in each 24-hour period in their stables during the winter.

Results showed

• Horses in winter stabled longer than 12/24 hours >90%
• Horses in summer stabled longer than 12/24 hours > 21%

More than 40% of the 908 owners who completed the survey reported that the horses they cared for had suffered a health problem that had required veterinary treatment or time off being ridden, or both, during the previous six winter months.

Many of the owners who responded owned or cared for more than one horse, and the 908 respondents based their answers on the experience of caring for a total of over 2,400 horses.

Two Big Equine Health Issues

Just as in the 2017 survey, respondents highlighted two key equine health problems: Respiratory illness and hoof disease or infection. Nearly 120 owners reported respiratory problems ranging from mild to severe that needed veterinary attention and time off riding. More than 80 owners had to call the vet in to treat hoof infection or disease.

Diseases and conditions requiring veterinary care

• Owners reporting equine health problems during winter > 354 (of 908)
• Respiratory disease > 118
• Hoof infection/disease > 79
• Mud fever > 68
• Bacterial infection/Virus > 48
• Skin allergies > 35
• Mental health/sleep deprivation > 24
• Laminitis > 22

Stable Conditions are Critical

The 2018 Bedmax survey reveals that 200 out of 908 owners lost the use of their horses and paid vet’s bills for equine health problems that are directly related to, or caused by, keeping horses in stables for long periods.

More specifically, the two most widespread equine health problems suffered by horses in the UK seem to be directly related to the stable conditions in which they are kept.

Airborne, breathable dust and spores in the confines of a stable are recognised as the biggest cause of equine respiratory disease; and hooves standing for 12 hours or more in conditions that provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria are going to be vulnerable to infection and disease.

Confirming that too many owners are paying hefty vet’s bills and losing the use of their horses because their horses are suffering health problems that can be avoided or prevented by changing the conditions in which they are kept.

Period of time the horse couldn’t be worked

• Horses non-riding period caused by health problem: 1-2 weeks > 158
• Horses non-riding period caused by health problem: 1-3 months > 124
• Horses on box rest for health problem: 1-2 weeks > 124
• Horses on box rest for health problem: 1-3+ months > 115

Counting the Cost

It is over the 20 years since Bedmax began researching bedding and every survey they have carried out has shown that almost every horse owner in the UK is totally committed to keeping their horses as healthy and happy as humanly possible.

Many of the team at BEDMAX own and ride horses and know from personal experience how difficult (and expensive) that can be, particularly when it is necessary to keep our horses in stables for long periods – as the great majority of us must, especially in winter.

It is possible to count the cost of equine health problems in two ways:

1. The cost horses pay in suffering preventable ill-health
2. The cost humans pay in vets bills, insurance and loss of use

In conclusion of the survey findings, Bedmax said: “We are going to follow up these survey results with as much information as we can find about the two main health problems. We are going to talk to leading equine vets and equestrian professionals, we’re going to explore the research and we’re going to clarify how these diseases occur, exactly how they affect your horses, and how they can be prevented. Beginning with the biggest equine health problem: Respiratory Disease.”

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