Current equine management in Equine Assisted Services (EAS)

A. Ellisson, Lorna Cameron

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

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Abstract

Introduction: Equine Assisted Services (EAS) is a rapidly growing sector of the equine industry (García-Gómez et al., 2020) currently without specific enforced guidelines on practice, or husbandry, of the equids involved. In 2020 the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations (IAHAIO) produced recommended guidelines for the welfare of equids within EAS. This investigation aims to gain an understanding of current practices within the sector and determine if IAHAIO welfare guidelines covering care, training and welfare of equids and The Five Domains Welfare Model (Mellor et al., 2020) are being considered.
Materials and Methods: An online questionnaire consisting of 29 open and closed ended questions regarding current EAS practices and equine management techniques was distributed via email to current professionals within the sector. Professionals were identified from The Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI) alongside professionals known to the author. All direct emails were sent to facilities in the United Kingdom (UK), but the questionnaire was shared internationally by some participants. The questionnaire was split into six sections: EAS Sessions, Environment, Physical Wellbeing, Mental Wellbeing, Behaviour and Nutrition. Data from all 54 respondents from the UK and internationally were analysed using quantitative methods, including Chi Squared Goodness of Fit and Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test, and thematic analysis, as appropriate, to determine common themes between facilitators and adherence to recommended guidelines.
Results: There were significantly greater than expected (χ²=89.471; df=1; P=0.001) non-ridden EAS sessions offered compared to ridden. Horses spending up to one hour in a daily EAS session was reported by 51.85% of respondents, 37.04% (n=20) reported 2-3 hours, 5.56% (n=3) reports of 3-4 hours, 3.70% (n=2) of 4-5 hours and only 1.85% (n=1) 5+ hours. Responding facilitators had a variety of qualifications: 90.74% held either an equine or counselling-based qualification while 11.11% held an EAS specific qualification. The ability of equids to perform natural behaviours was of great importance to 98.15% of respondents. All (n=54) reported that their equids received regular veterinary and dental checks, as well as farrier or podiatrist treatment. Grass and hay were the most common forages offered (χ²=33.50; df=4; P=0.001).
Discussion and Conclusion: EAS practices within sessions generally followed IAHAIO guidelines and wellbeing of equids was a priority for facilitators. All aspects of the Five Domains Model were considered to ensure wellbeing of equids by respondents in this investigation. A greater proportion of non-ridden sessions may lead to the inclusion of retired or rescue horses which might come with their own additional needs. Meeting these could be a challenge considering the lack of required specialist equine training for facilitators. Differences between riding schools (Ijichi et al., 2023) and EAS facilities in this investigation have been noted regarding the workload and enrichment provision
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2024
Event13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference - Hartpury University, Gloucester, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 May 20248 May 2024

Conference

Conference13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityGloucester
Period8/5/248/5/24

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