A British study will explore horse owners’ knowledge of laminitis and how it affects their horse care decisions.
It is hoped the results will help define the most effective ways to convey evidence-based science to horse owners to improve equine health and welfare.
Equine laminitis is a painful, debilitating foot condition, often needing prolonged treatment or euthanasia.
Several management-related modifiable risk factors have been identified, including rapid weight gain, recent box rest and recent introduction to grazing.
However, no research has yet been conducted to investigate whether or how such research evidence translates into changes in horse care and hence improvements in horse welfare.
The study is being conducted by Chantil Sinclair, an epidemiologist at the Royal Veterinary College, supervised by Dr Jackie Cardwell, Dr Nicola Menzie-Gow and Dr Carrie Roder.
It is supported by feed company Spillers via the Waltham science centre, which provides scientific nutritional advice to the company.
“My key objective is to understand the decision-making process when caring for horses,” explains Sinclair, who is working toward her doctorate.
“First, we intend to establish the level of knowledge horse owners have about existing scientific evidence on reducing the risk of laminitis. We then hope to identify the specific barriers that either hinder awareness or prevent implementation of best practice.”
She will be looking at the underlying factors that act as barriers or drivers to the acceptance of research evidence and adoption of new practices. These include attitude, behaviour, technical and cultural factors.
Once a better understanding of such barriers has been established, it is intended that laminitis and other health and welfare issues can be addressed with these in mind, to ensure that horses are consistently given the best quality of life possible.
The main aim is to improve horse welfare through better communication and information exchange between researchers and horse carers and the promotion of evidence-based horse care practices.
Nutritionist Clare Barfoot, the research and development manager at Spillers, says communication processes could be improved by first establishing what prevents or drives horse owners to implement evidenced-based management practices.
“Ultimately, this should help reduce the risk of disease with a particular focus on laminitis and other disorders that can be nutrition-related.”