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BEVA launches colour-coded scheme to tackle equine obesity

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BEVA Obesity vaccination stickers

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has launched a brand-new scheme using a traffic light colour system with vaccination reminder stickers that vets can use as a way to both promote a good vaccination schedule and provide an opportunity and reminder to check body condition regularly. Depending on the project’s success over a six-month period, the initiative will be introduced across the UK in the summer.

Obesity is a huge problem among equines in the UK, despite the best efforts of charities to address the welfare concerns associated with it. A large proportion of owners either aren’t recognising obesity or aren’t motivated or understanding how to go about generating weight-loss. BEVA hope to confront the problem by using the routine annual or six-monthly vaccination visits as an opportunity to assess horses’ body conditions. This is then indicated with a coloured vaccination reminder sticker adhered to the front of the horse’s passport. A green sticker indicates a healthy body, while amber requires moderate changes to management to help the horse lose weight. Red stickers, however, mean the horse is carrying excess weight, which is putting his health in danger.

Lucy Grieve, President Elect of BEVA and part of the association’s obesity campaign working group, explains: “Determined to look at new ways to positively engage with horse owners, we harnessed the Behavioural Insights Team’s (BIT) experience of what methods work most effectively and came up with a simple, practical scheme revolving around vaccination visits, which could be affected by vets themselves.”

It’s hoped that the coloured stickers will help spark conversation and encourage owners to get more hands-on in monitoring their horses’ body condition. Owners will also have access to further information and short videos online to help them understand the colour-coding. “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,” says Lucy.  “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’ve been offered and start to tackle the problem before it causes life-threatening disease.”

Nine veterinary practices took part in the pilot scheme, and Deben Valley Equine Veterinary Clinic’s Practice Principal, Helen Whitbread, said “Obesity is a welfare challenge and it is important that owners know about laminitis risk as well as the many other detrimental health issues. Fat on the outside is matched by fat on the inside of the horse, around important organs such as the liver – people often don’t realise that.  I hope this scheme will direct owners to look at a reliable source on the BEVA website and digest the information in their own time and realise we are here, willing to help them.”

To find out more, visit beva.org.uk

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