A few weeks ago, the 14th International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference was held in Rome, and bought together world leading equine scientists. The 4 day programme featured over 140 lectures, presentations, posters and demonstrations including a review of 3 research projects conducted in collaboration with SPILLERS. Here we share the results of a study which investigated horse owners’ current knowledge of laminitis risk factors and whether or not scientific evidence influences horse care.


Why is this research so important?

We are passionate about helping owners to improve the health, welfare and happiness of their horses and as a result, have been participating in laminitis research for nearly 20 years.  However for scientific research to truly benefit horses and ponies, effective communication of the results and their significance is essential. This study is the first step in a 3 year PhD project conducted by Chantil Sinclair and supervised by Dr Jackie Cardwell at the Royal Veterinary College investigating current awareness of scientific research and the reasons why evidence based management practices may or may not be implemented by horse owners.

The study

Horse owners and carers responsible for making day to day horse care/ management decisions were recruited to complete an internet based survey. The survey was divided into four sections and gathered information on

  • The participants & their horses
  • The sources of information accessed for advice
  • Views on scientific research
  • Laminitis knowledge & management practices


Horse at grass

Key findings include

  • Opinion on scientific research was generally positive with many respondents recognising that scientific research is evidence based
  • Many respondents felt that scientific research is difficult to understand, aimed at professionals rather than horse owners and produces contradictory results
  • >75% of respondents were practicing routine hoof care, provision of a balanced diet and maintaining an ‘ideal’ body condition
  • 15% of respondents were using a grazing muzzle, 50% thought it was feasible to do so
  • 28% of respondents avoided turning out frosty mornings, 50% stated it was feasible to do so


 Grazing Muzzle


This initial research shows that the majority of horse owners believe scientific research helps to improve horse welfare. However many also feel that research is confusing and that consequent recommendations regarding horse care/ management are often difficult to implement. Practice of several management strategies recommended to reduce the risk of laminitis was generally low and may therefore benefit from improved communication.


Next steps

The results of this survey will be used to develop in-depth, interview based research which will investigate the barriers that either hinder awareness or prevent the implementation of best practice. It is hoped that in time, this knowledge will lead to improved communication between scientists and horse owners/ carers and in turn, improve the health and welfare of horses and ponies prone to laminitis and other nutritionally related clinical conditions.


For more advice on feeding horses and ponies prone to laminitis contact the SPILLERS Care-Line