Aspects of adiposity in ponies

Dugdale, Alex
Aspects of adiposity in ponies. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Obesity is a growing problem for humans and their horses and ponies, yet emaciated animals still form an important part of the work of equine welfare charities. Non-invasive yet reliable methods of assessing equine body fat are required in order to promote management procedures to improve animal welfare. The overall objective of this work was to investigate the application of a horse-specific body condition scoring system in ponies in order to either validate or revise it, or even replace it with a novel system if necessary. Seasonal differences in appetite, body mass (BM) gain, body condition score (BCS) change and direct (ultrasound) and indirect (morphometry and D2O dilution) measures of body fat were explored in two relatively homogeneous groups of mature Welsh mountain pony mares, studied over summer (June –September 2007) and winter (January-April 2008). The ponies in each group were paired so that, at study outset, two ponies were ‘thin’ (BCS, 1-3/9); two were ‘moderate’ (BCS, 4-6/9); and two were ‘obese’ (BCS, 7-9/9). The greatest appetites (peak 4.6% BM as DMI), increases in body mass (~60kg) and in BCS (~3 points) were recorded for ponies of non-obese outset condition in summer (non-ObS, n=4). For ponies of non-obese outset condition in winter (non-ObW, n=3), appetites peaked at 3.5% BM as DMI, BM increased by a mean of 50kg and BCS increased by ~2 points over the 3 month study period. Appetites for all obese (Ob, n=4) ponies remained almost constant (~2% BM as DMI; peak 2.3% BM as DMI) and minimal changes in BM (n=3) and BCS (n=4) were recorded, regardless of season. All measures of body fat increased for non-Ob ponies (non-ObS>non-ObW). An exponential relationship was determined between body fat content and BCS and for values > 6, BCS was not a useful predictor of actual body fat content. The endogenous circannual mechanisms to encourage winter weight loss were insufficient to prevent the development of obesity in ad libitum fed ponies. The effects of dietary restriction to 1% BM as DMI were studied in a group of 5 overweight or obese mature pony mares (BCS 5.6-8/9). Those measures outlined above were likewise recorded. All ponies remained healthy throughout the 12 week trial. Overall, BM reduced by 1% of outset BM per week. Approximately half the lost BM comprised fat, but fatter animals lost relatively more fat. Despite an average loss of ~30 kg BM, BCS did not change appreciably suggesting that BCS was a relatively poor indicator of early weight/fat loss in obese ponies. The relationships between BCS, direct (ultrasonic) and indirect (morphometric and D2O dilution derived) measures of body fat and actual body fat content determined by both physical dissection and chemical cadaver analysis were explored using 7 donated mature Welsh pony mares (BCS 1.25 to 7/9). Body ‘fat’ content (dissected white adipose tissue or chemically-extracted lipid fractions) was the most variable constituent of the cadavers (up to 1/3rd body mass), and was non-linearly related to BCS. From these studies, it was also possible to validate the D2O dilution technique for the measurement of total body water and fat in ponies. Contemporaneously gathered data for BCS and body fat (D2O dilution) from 48 separate observations were explored statistically. A non-linear association between body fat content and BCS was confirmed, with a cut off value of BCS 7/9, above which BCS was less useful for determining body fat content. A novel BCS system was created and is undergoing field trials.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2011-05 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: obesity, fatness, fat, horses
Subjects: ?? SF ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 23 May 2012 09:25
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:36
DOI: 10.17638/00003213
  • Argo, Caroline
  • Knottenbelt, DC
  • Cripps, Peter J