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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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Wales to ban third party puppy and kitten sales

News Story 1
 The Welsh Government has said it will ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, after a consultation showed overwhelming public support.

A consultation in February received nearly 500 responses, most of whom called for greater action to improve the welfare of cats and dogs at all breeding premises.

Concerns were also raised about online sales, impulse buying, breeder accountability and illegal puppy imports.

A consultation will now be held on plans to implement a ban. Environment minister Lesley Griffiths said she will also revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions.  

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News Shorts
WHO declares Congo Ebola outbreak an international health emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The move comes after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC. The committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma - a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The committee also reinforced the need to protect the livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.