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New insights on rider weight and horse welfare
Researchers say the most likely reasons for the findings are rider weight as a proportion of horse weight, or rider position in the saddle or on the horse’s back.
Horses can suffer transient lameness if rider weight is too high 

A new study suggests that horses can experience temporary lameness and show signs indicating musculoskeletal pain when there is a high rider:horse bodyweight ratio.

The pilot study, published in the journal Equine Veterinary Education, explored the potential impact of rider weight on horse health and welfare.

Whilst it is widely recognised that inappropriate rider weight has welfare implications, there is a lack of reliable scientific evidence on which to base guidelines.

Six non-lame horses in regular work were ridden by four riders classified as ‘light’, ‘moderate’, ‘heavy’ and ‘very heavy’. A standardised, 30-minute ‘dressage test’ was undertaken by each horse-rider combination and abandoned if researchers observed lameness or behavioural markers of pain.

None of the tests were completed by the heavy or very heavy riders and one out of 12 tests involving medium riders was abandoned. Researchers say the most likely reasons for this are rider weight as a proportion of horse weight, or rider position in the saddle or on the horse’s back.

All horses trotted sound after the test was abandoned and completed the study, moving well when ridden.

Lead author Dr Sue Dyson, head of clinical orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust, said: “The results indicate that every rider and especially heavier riders should ride a horse or pony of appropriate size and fitness for the rider’s weight, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider.”

Funding has been confirmed for the next phase of research, which will explore whether the horse’s fitness, adaptation to carry heavier weights or more ideal saddle fit, could increase the weight individual horses can carry.

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RSPCA braced for ‘hectic hedgehog month’

News Story 1
 The RSPCA says that it is bracing itself for a ‘hectic hedgehog month’ after calls to the charity about the creatures peaked this time last year.

More than 10,000 calls about hedgehogs were made to the RSPCA’s national helpline in 2018, 1,867 of which were in July. This compares with just 133 calls received in February of the same year.

Evie Button, the RSPCA’s scientific officer, said: “July is our busiest month for hedgehogs. Not only do calls about hedgehogs peak, but so do admissions to our four wildlife centres as members of the public and our own officers bring in orphaned, sick or injured animals for treatment and rehabilitation.” 

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ASF traces found in seized meat at NI airport

More than 300kg of illegal meat and dairy products were seized at Northern Ireland’s airports in June, DAERA has revealed.

A sample of these were tested at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, resulting in the detection of African swine fever DNA fragments.

DAERA said that while the discovery does not pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s animal health status, it underlines the importance of controls placed on personal imports of meat and dairy products. Holidaymakers travelling overseas are being reminded not to bring any animal or plant products back home.