Horse owners find it hard to sort scientific oats from the chaff – survey

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Many horse owners find scientific equine research difficult to understand, sometimes contradictory, and difficult to implement, a British survey has revealed.

In the survey, three-quarters of respondents said they believed that scientific research has a positive impact on horse welfare, yet most found the science difficult to understand and act upon.

The survey of British horse owners, carers and yard managers was supported by feed manufacturer Spillers in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC),  said they believe that scientific research has positive impact on horse welfare, yet most find the science difficult to understand and act upon.

The online survey was conducted by Chantil Sinclair a PhD student at the RVC, supervised by Dr Jackie Cardwell, Dr Nicola Menzies-Gow (RVC) and Dr Carrie Roder (Anglia Ruskin University) plus Dr Pat Harris  of Waltham, which provides the science for the Spillers brand. Some provisional results were presented at the International Equitation Science Conference in Rome earlier this year and more recently at the 15th International Symposium of Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The example of laminitis was used to explore levels of knowledge and implementation of methods to reduce the risk of this disease, amongst 1414 horse owners, carers and yard managers responsible for day-to-day horse management decisions. More than 75% of respondents (1205) who answered the question practised routine foot care, feeding a balanced diet and maintaining an ideal body weight. Only 16% used a grazing muzzle and fewer than a third avoided turning out on a frosty morning, although 50% said that it was feasible to implement both of these measures.

Chantil Sinclair said findings from the provisional analysis were generally positive, with most horse carers practising fundamental measures. “However, the overall feasibility and practice of some of the measures was generally quite low,” she said.

“The next part of our study will go on to explore the reasons behind this and how we can help overcome any barriers to optimal horse care.”

The final analysis will be used to design an interview-based investigation of horse carers’ barriers to or drivers for the adoption of evidence-based best practices. Then the study team will consider the most effective ways to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based science, in order to improve equine health and welfare.

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