Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
Send Cancel

Traffic light scheme to tackle equine obesity
The sticker scheme is designed to remind horse owners when their next vaccination is due and provide information about their animal's weight.

Scheme designed to spark positive discussions with owners

A pilot scheme that uses a colour-code system of vaccination reminders has been launched by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) in a bid to tackle equine obesity.

The scheme utilises a traffic light system in the form of reminder stickers, which vets can place on the front of passports at each vaccination appointment. If the scheme proves a success, it will be rolled out in the summer to the whole of the UK.

Despite the best efforts of vets to address the issue, obesity is one of the biggest problems facing equine welfare in the UK. Many owners are either not recognising obesity in their horses, or are subsequently not being motivated to take action.

To help tackle this problem, BEVA harnessed knowledge gained from the government-owned Behavioural Insights Team on how best to positively engage with horse owners. They came up with a simple, practical scheme that utilises the routine annual or six-monthly vaccination visit to assess a horse’s body condition.

The sticker scheme is designed to remind horse owners when the next vaccination is due and to provide information about their animal’s weight. A ‘healthy’ body condition is indicated by a green sticker. Amber indicates the horse is carrying too much fat tissue and needs moderate changes to its lifestyle. Red shows the horse is carrying excessive amounts of weight which is putting the horse in morbid danger.

The idea of the scheme is to spark a discussion with the owner about their horse’s weight and how any potential issues can be addressed. If time does not allow for a full discussion, the owner can simply scan the sticker with a smartphone to access information on the matter in their own time. 

“The first challenge is helping owners recognise when their horse is overweight. Once this has been established then we can make a plan to correct the problem as a team,” explains Lucy Grieve, president-elect of BEVA and part of the association’s obesity campaign working group.

“The owner needs to be on board and committed in order to carry out the tough task of reducing the weight of their horse. We hope that owners will be ‘nudged’ by the sticker intervention to consider the information they have been offered and start to tackle the problem before it causes life-threatening disease.”

Nine equine veterinary practices are taking part in the scheme, including Loch Leven Equine Practice in Kinross. Managing director Liz Somerville said:

“We have been focusing on equine obesity for the last couple of years including running a #FitnotFat campaign last year to try to highlight the growing obesity problem in our horses. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels that we are banging our heads against a brick wall so when BEVA came up with a new approach to try and get the message through to our owners it was too good an opportunity to miss.”

After six months, vets involved in the scheme will be asked how they felt it worked, what proportion of owners used the QR codes, and how many owners sought their advice after viewing the information online. Success will be measured by assessing whether the stickers resulted in more owners recognising their horse is overweight, not by the number of kilograms lost.

“Hopefully we’ll see some success from the pilot and using the feedback we receive we will then make changes as required before rolling the project out across the membership,” said Lucy.

Image (C) BEVA.

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

BEVA gives vets access to free membership for three months

News Story 1
 BEVA has announced that it is cutting membership renewal charges for the next three months in order to support all veterinary professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Memberships for all existing BEVA members will be extended until 30 June 2020. Veterinary professionals who are not members of BEVA will also be able to sign up for a free membership until 30 June 2020.

BEVA president Tim Mair said: "In this extraordinary time of global crisis our profession, as with many industries, is under immense pressure. By offering free membership we are giving equine vets easy access to a wealth of supportive resources and online CPD."

To sign up please visit the BEVA website.

Image (c) BEVA. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
LOVE Gorgie Farm seeking veterinary volunteers

LOVE Gorgie Farm in Edinburgh is looking for people with veterinary and animal care experience, who would be interested in volunteering to help care for its animals during these difficult times.

The community-owned charity farm opened to the public only last month, but decided to close temporarily amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Its three-person team is working to care for the animals behind the scenes and the farm is now operating as a food bank for the public, delivering free breakfasts to local school children.

In an effort to build a contingency plan to secure the welfare of its animals, LOVE Gorgie Farm is looking for volunteers who would be able to step in if any team members fell sick or needed to self-isolate.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to contact