Benefits of animal exposure on veterinary students’ understanding of equine behaviour and self-assessed equine handling skills

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Horses are one of the most dangerous animals veterinarians have to work with. For many veterinary students, their first exposure to horses occurs during practical classes. To evaluate the level of knowledge students have of equine behaviour and their equine handling competency when entering the programme, 214 veterinary students (1st and 4th year) were recruited to participate in a questionnaire. Participants were asked to choose one out of 12 terms that best represented the affective state of a horse in a picture, and to self-assess their equine handling skills. Half (n = 56/115) of the first-year students correctly interpreted the horse’s behaviour. The majority had (1) a poor understanding of equine learning mechanisms and (2) poor self-rated equine handling skills. A history of pet ownership (p = 0.027) and the presence of horses on their family property (p = 0.001) were significantly associated with a correct understanding of equine behaviour. Fourth-year students were three times more likely to accurately interpret the horse’s behaviour (p = 0.01) and rated their handling skills higher than first-year students (p = 0.006). These results suggest that previous animal experience confers a considerable advantage to interpret equine behaviour and highlight the critical importance of practical training in the veterinary programme.
horse, behaviour, welfare, veterinary teaching, equine handling
ANIMALS, 2019, 9 (9)