- Charles Sturt academic researches effects of COVID-19 on horse owners
- The Australia and New Zealand COVID-19 survey had 1207 participants, 680 from Australia
- Survey revealed some owners were worried about horse health and welfare, access to horse care-related professionals and current and future shortages in feed
An international study conducted by a Charles Sturt University academic has revealed the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on horse owners in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and United Kingdom.
Associate Head of School and Associate Professor of Equine Science in the Charles Sturt School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Dr Hayley Randle (pictured, with her horse Hotshot) is part of a team conducting an international qualitative and quantitative survey of horse owners to investigate the varying effects of the pandemic.
The ‘Australia and New Zealand COVID-19 survey’, completed by 680 Australian horse owners, revealed concerns in four main areas – horse activity within the industry (training, leisure riding, competing), horse management and health, horse welfare, and human wellbeing.
The survey measured reactions to factors such as whether owners were able to keep their horses at home or at agistment, whether owners could still visit their horses, whether horses could still be ridden, changes in services from vets, farriers, dentists, and ongoing and future costs.
“Horse owners have real concerns about both current and future shortages in feed and other things necessary for looking after their horses,” Dr Randle said.
“They are also worried about access to horse care-related professionals, primarily vets and farriers, but also a wide range of other people who help to keep their horse going.”
An overwhelming number of participants indicated they wanted a more consistent guide for what they could and could not do, such as interstate travel to care for horses or clarity around horse racing.
“A lot of people have put themselves under self-imposed restrictions and stopped doing things such as riding young horses and jumping, because they considered these more risky,” Dr Randle said.
“Those who normally compete their horses were very worried about the loss of opportunities to do so and the impact that has on long-term horse fitness and also for resale value.”
Businesses and owners were concerned the financial implications of COVID-19 would impact decisions they make and affect their ability to keep their animals in the future.
In addition to the effect the pandemic has on the mental and physical health of horse owners, they also indicated they were worried the COVID-19 restrictions would impact horse health and welfare.
The horse owners that kept their horses at home felt relatively unaffected by restrictions and some were even thankful for the opportunity for more frequent and improved interactions with their animals.
“It is amazing how many people who are able to keep their horses at home expressed their gratitude for not their having access to them restricted due to the kinds of necessary social distancing measures being imposed in other places, such as agistments,” Dr Randle said.
The next survey will be issued shortly as restrictions begin to ease.