Horse riders in the UK have a legal responsibility for the welfare of the horses in their care, outlined by the Animal Welfare Act (2006). Understanding weight management factors that influence rider: horse bodyweight (RHBW) ratio is key to safeguarding horse welfare as human obesity rates increase. Recent high-profile incidents have seen riders being asked to dismount for being too heavy, demonstrating an awareness of the possible impact of excessive rider weight, threatening the equestrian industry’s social licence to operate. This study investigated RHBW trends within the UK leisure and amateur rider population to understand rider perception of ‘ideal’ RHBW and factors influencing rider and horse weight management. An online survey (SurveyMonkey®) was distributed via UK equine-related FacebookTM groups and collected information on horse and rider demographics, rider weight management strategies and respondents’ views on the importance of rider weight on horse welfare. Kruskal-Wallis analyses with Mann Whitney U post-hoc tests identified whether differences in respondent views differed between RHBW groups. A total of 971 riders completed the survey; respondents were aged between 18-65+ years old and 88% (n=953) were experienced riders. RHBWs were calculated for 764 (79%) of respondents as 21.2% (n=206) did not know either their own and/or their horses’ weight. Weight tapes (44.5%; n=432) and weigh bridges (29.5%; n=286) were common horse weight estimation methods. RHBWs ranged from 4.9% to 21.88%, mean: 12.5%±2.7%. Riders with lower RHBW thought about their own weight less and measured their horses’ weight less often than those with higher ratios (P<0.005, P< 0.0004, respectively). The majority of riders who participated were weight conscious and recognised potential detrimental impacts associated with increased rider weight. Development of RHBW guidelines supported by equestrian governing bodies would highlight the need for riders to consider the impact of weight and support them in choosing suitable horses.
|Journal||Comparative Exercise Physiology|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 12 Jun 2021|