Horses today are managed much differently from their evolutionary roots, indicated Dr.
Pleasant. The horse evolved as a free-roaming grazer on sparse pasture types, he said. Later
the horse served primarily as a work animal, serving as a source of transportation and draft
power. Today, most horses serve as companions and light performance animals, he said.
We can see with increased nutrition and lack of exercise how these animals could drift toward
being overweight, he said.
This research project remains underway, and has laid the groundwork for a series of provocative
new studies. The researchers are now focusing more specifically on the role of hormone levels,
oxidative stress, inflammatory biomarkers, and antioxidant mechanisms.
However, the preliminary data clearly demonstrates that this research has important
implications for both equine and human health.
For example, the knowledge gained concerning the correlation between fortified forage and lack
of exercise and obesity in the horse can be immediately utilized by veterinary clinicians and
owners who can now consider altering their existing feeding and management programs.
Human health may also substantially benefit from this study, according to Dr. Thatcher, because
humans suffering from obesity experience chronic inflammation.
If obese horses are also found to suffer from chronic inflammation, the possibility would then
exist for the horse to serve as an animal model for the study of obesity in people for the very
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