Thursday, January 18, 2018

Laminitis researcher investigates horse owners’ knowledge of disease and how it affects horse care decisions

A new laminitis research study, supported by the equine feed manufacturer SPILLERS®, in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in England, aims to shed light on British horse owners’ understanding of laminitis and whether or how that knowledge may influence horse management practices in Great Britain.

Ultimately, sponsors say, the outcome should help define the most effective ways to convey evidence-based science to horse owners in order to improve equine health and welfare.

It is widely known that equine laminitis is a painful, debilitating foot condition, often necessitating prolonged treatment or euthanasia and that a number of management-related modifiable risk factors have been identified. These factors include 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.

Chantil Sinclair, an epidemiologist at the RVC, is conducting the study. She combines a background in human health with a passion for horses and a keen interest in improving access to scientifically supported information. 

Supervisors are Dr Jackie Cardwell, Dr Nicola Menzie-Gow (RVC) and Dr Carrie Roder (Anglia Ruskin University). The study is supported by SPILLERS® via WALTHAM®, who provide the science underpinning the brand. 

"The ultimate aim is to improve horse welfare through optimized communication and information exchange between researchers and horse carers and the promotion of evidence-based horse care practices."

The study forms part of Chantil’s researched leading to a doctorate (PhD). She explains: “My key objective is to understand the decision-making process when caring for horses. 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.”

Sinclair 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, behavior, 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 ultimate aim is to improve horse welfare through optimized communication and information exchange between researchers and horse carers and the promotion of evidence-based horse care practices.

Clare Barfoot, RNutr, the research and development manager at SPILLERS®, commented: “SPILLERS® is passionate about helping horse owners improve the health and happiness of their horses. By establishing what prevents or drives horse owners to implement evidenced based management practices we should in time be able to adopt improved communication processes. Ultimately this should help reduce the risk of disease with a particular focus on laminitis and other disorders that can be nutrition-related.”

Header photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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