Investigation into the impact of veterinary procedures on horses

Gemma Pearson, Richard Reardon, Natalie Waran, John Keen, Cathy Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Equine veterinarians frequently encounter and are injured by horses during veterinary care (Pearson et al., 2020). The aim of this study was to investigate how horses perceived veterinary care and document their behavioural responses.

A convenience sample of 57 cases presenting for non-urgent veterinary care (Events) were included. Data collection included heart rate variability parameters (from a Holter ECG) and a behavioural scoring system (encompassing both the type of response and the level of arousal). Associations between variables (e.g. breed) and both physiological and behavioural indicators of ‘stress’ were evaluated using linear models.

Across all Events horses were scored as ‘stressed’ 49.2% of the time. Horse age (younger [p=0.002]) and invasive Events (compared to non-invasive) were significantly associated higher behavioural indicator ‘stress’ scores. Mean HR difference from baseline reduced with increasing age (p=0.011) and was significantly elevated for the Events: Enter Examination Room, Weigh Bridge and Horse Walks Past (P<0.05).

For Nerve Block horses were significantly less likely to be ‘stressed’ if food was provided (p<0.001). For IV Injections horses were less likely to be ‘stressed’ when they were performed by a veterinarian rather than a nurse or student (p<0.05).

This is the first study to document the range of equine behavioural responses to veterinary care. Overall there was marked variation within and between individuals. A better understanding of how horses respond to veterinary care and risk factors for stress will inform the development of low stress handling during veterinary care.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021
Event3rd European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare - Online
Duration: 7 Oct 20219 Oct 2021


Conference3rd European Veterinary Congress of Behavioural Medicine and Animal Welfare


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