• 30 April 2015

Owners get their say in new Equine health study

Researchers and Veterinary clinicians from the University of Liverpool have developed a forward thinking research programme exploring horse owners’ understanding and experiences of equine health.

The study, funded by the Animal Welfare foundation, is interested in learning about owners’ views and experiences of equine health and disease and has a particular focus on laminitis. We are currently looking for horse owners to participate in a questionnaire.

Why is this study so important?

Horse-owners and carers play a key role in the health of their horses and often have an in-depth understanding of what is normal for their individual animal. This means that horse-owners/primary carers are in a prime position to identify deviations from normal and potentially early signs of disease in their animals.

By acknowledging and listening to owners’ views and experiences of equine health, vets are in a better position to provide practical advice for specific issues and enables improved communication between vets and owners.

What information are you hoping to collect?

The study is using long established sociological research methods that are used extensively in human medicine, and underpin public health campaigns.

An online questionnaire has been developed based on previous analysis of in-depth interviews with horse-owners. This aims to collect general views from a large population of horse-owners. Topics covered in the questionnaire explore: decision making and seeking veterinary advice; the types and frequency with which alternative sources of equine health information are accessed, and; approaches to the management and prevention of equine disease.

How does it help equine welfare?

By understanding how and why owners manage disease in the ways they do, we will be able to determine educational or knowledge gaps, and how these can be addressed. In particular, we aim to discover what is going well and what is perhaps not so straight forward in laminitis management and prevention, and be better informed for future equine health advice campaigns.

Aims of the research programme.

This project builds on previous work that examined how people deal with equine colic that explored factors that influence the uptake of strategies to prevent colic. That work highlighted how owners gain information about their horse’s health from a variety of different sources, the veterinary surgeon being just one of those utilised. Experience also played a major role, and how people interpret and act upon previous experiences, (their own or those of other people) had a significant role in shaping their future approaches to equine management. Part of this work was presented to vets at the international colic symposium (2014) and is freely available online at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/10/S1/S1. Scantlebury et al. BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10 (Suppl 1):S1.

Reports from respondents to the colic project identified a number of signs that owners interpreted as being colic that may not be listed in traditional veterinary texts, providing a fresh insight into how disease is recognised within the horse-owning community. The project highlighted how a combination of signs are recognised and assessed by owners prior to the decision to call the veterinary surgeon, and understanding these decision making processes can help with developing advice for larger populations of horse-owners.

With these aims in mind, the current Horse Health study is working alongside owners and veterinary surgeons in order to capture both sides of the story and to represent peoples’ experiences and actions. By understanding these perspectives, and describing possible challenges or factors that facilitate equine care, this will enable development of information resources that will be relevant, helpful and gauged to assist communication between the veterinary profession and horse-owners.

How can your clients help this project?

We are looking for horse owners to take part in a questionnaire as part of the current project within this research programme. The study team is interested in understanding how people view equine health. Even if their horse has never been unwell, we would like to hear from them. Owners can also register their interest in taking part in future studies.

For those wishing to take part, please visit the Horse Health study homepage to complete the questionnaire, or contact Claire Scantlebury to request a postal questionnaire. All responses will be anonymous and kept confidential.

For further information

e This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

t07501 833 178 (text message only)

w www.liv.ac.uk/equine/owners/horsehealthstudy/