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Difficult horses – Prevalence, approaches to management of and understanding of how they develop by equine veterinarians

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Original languageEnglish
JournalEquine Veterinary Education
Early online date29 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jul 2020


Despite the considerable risk of veterinary occupational injury due to adverse horse behaviour, limited information is available about the prevalence of unwanted equine behaviours or common approaches to managing them. An understanding of learning theory may affect veterinarians’ approaches to dealing with unwanted equine behaviours, however learning theory is not widely taught. The aim of this study was to document the challenges equine veterinarians face when working with difficult horses and define their approaches to managing them, including their understanding of the processes through which horses learn. A link to an online survey was distributed via email amongst U.K. equine veterinarians. Descriptive and Kruskal-Wallis statistical analyses were performed. We found that 95% of equine veterinarians reported working with difficult horses on at least a monthly basis, resulting in 81% of them sustaining at least one injury in the last five years. The most popular methods of dealing with unwanted behaviours were physical and chemical restraint. 46% of those surveyed had never received any tuition on the processes through which horses learn. Despite 79% believing they had at least a moderate understanding of equine learning theory they performed poorly when tested, with only 10% able to get at least 5 out of 6 questions correct. Further education on the subject of learning theory may be beneficial.

    Research areas

  • horse, veterinarian, injury, learning theory, behavior

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