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Expert speaks out over “cruelty” to show horses

Laminitis expert Robert Eustace speaks out against owners who intentionally over feed their horses to achieve show ring condition

Owners who feed their horses to make them intentionally overweight are cruel and should be prosecuted claims laminitis expert and founder of The Laminitis Trust, Robert Eustace FRCVS, who spoke at the ILPH’s annual conference on Monday (28 October).

Robert’s powerful message hopes to redress the balance between horses which are fit to work and those in “show condition”, which can cause the horse to suffer excruciatingly painful bouts of laminitis.

Described by Robert as “a torture like having your finger nails pulled out”, laminitis continues to be a major problem in the UK, with “the principle cause being inappropriate diet.”

Robert blames the trend for so many overweight horses with the showing fraternity: “Many owners intentionally fatten equines for the show ring. This is actively working against the animal’s health. I would go so far as to say it’s intentional maltreatment and thus cruelty.”

Robert is also concerned about the increasing number of horses suffering from Cushing’s disease.

“Pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease has become increasingly common and we are seeing it in younger animals. Obesity in horses induces insulin resistance and is a cause of peripheral Cushing’s disease.”

Despite campaigning that “a fat horse is not a fit horse” for the past 14 years, Robert is still seeing numerous cases at the Laminitis Clinic in Wiltshire.

“I sometimes wonder if the only way for change would be if an owner were prosecuted for cruelty through repeatedly fattening for the show ring and causing a horse to suffer this agony.

Owners and breed societies may have to take matters into their own hands and send out a clear message that they will boycott shows where judges continue to place obese animals at the top of the line.”

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s exclusive news report on this contentious subject which includes the views of vets, showing producers, riders and judges in tomorrow’s magazine (31 October), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse &Hound delivered to your door every week.

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