Confidence does not mediate a relationship between owner experience and likelihood of using weight management approaches for native ponies

A Ward*, Patricia A Harris, CM Argo, CA Watson, Neil M. Burns, Madalina Neacsu, Wendy R Russell, Dai Grove-White, PK Morrison

*Corresponding author for this work

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Native ponies are at increased risk of obesity and metabolic perturbations, such as insulin dysregulation (ID), a key risk factor for endocrinopathic laminitis. Management and feeding practices can be adapted to maintain healthy body condition and support metabolic health, but owners may inadvertently provide their ponies with inappropriate management leading to obesity and exacerbating risk of metabolic disease. Adoption of preventative weight management approaches (WMAs), including regular monitoring of body condition, providing appropriate preserved forage, promoting seasonal weight loss, and using exercise accordingly, are key in supporting native ponies’ metabolic health. The factors influencing the adoption of WMAs, such as owners’ experience and confidence, require exploration. The aim of the current study was to understand factors influencing owners’ likelihood to undertake certain WMAs, to develop our understanding of suitable intervention targets. A total of 571 responses to an online cross-sectional questionnaire were analysed. Mediation analysis revealed that whilst long term (≥20 years) experience caring for native ponies was associated with owners increased, self-reported confidence in identifying disease and managing their native ponies, this did not translate to an increased likelihood of implementing WMAs. Conversely, respondents who managed ponies with dietary requirements related to obesity, laminitis, or equine metabolic syndrome were more likely to use WMAs related to feeding, seasonal weight management and exercise. Owner confidence was assessed and rejected as a mediator of the relationship between experience and WMA use. These results highlight the need for further work that elucidates the pathways leading owners to undertake action against obesity without the need for ponies to develop overt disease, as well as suggesting a need for long term managers of native ponies to update management practices with preventative care as the focus.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0292886
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - Oct 2023


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