Investigator(s): Dr Debra Archer
This research project investigated horse owner understandings and experience of equine health and welfare using established sociological methods and explored ways in which practical and effective educational interventions could be made.
Human behaviour is a key, yet often overlooked, component of animal health and welfare. Most veterinary research has focused on pathological, microbiological and environmental aspects of equine health and disease. However, there is little evidence that this information is translated into preventive practices by horse owners / carers. We do not understand the human behavioural drivers that act as barriers to improving equine health and welfare
. There is anecdotal evidence that horse owners view many of the results of scientific studies with scepticism which is likely to arise due to conflict between scientific findings and horse owners understanding of their animals’ health and welfare, so called “lay epidemiology”. Such conflict may substantially impede adoption of preventive health messages which do not take into account existing beliefs and practices.
This project utilised social research methods, which have made a major contribution to the development of preventive health programmes in humans, to investigate ways in which equine health and welfare can be improved e.g. equine obsesity and laminitis, geriatric health, stereotypic behaviour 
. Friends or “knowledgeable” horse people were identified as the first point of contact for horse-health matters, with veterinary surgeons being contacted as a last resort or only for serious problems 
. This project also explored barriers to the transfer of knowledge from the veterinary profession to horse owners/ carers and ways in which educational inteventions could be implemented.
As part of the project a website has been developed taking into account the findings from the study, with a key emphasis on providing evidence-based information about what laminitis is, why it develops, how to manage laminitis cases and prevention. This provides information relevant to horse owners and other equine industry stakeholders.