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Open AccessArticle

Building Bridges between Theory and Practice: How Citizen Science Can Bring Equine Researchers and Practitioners Together

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Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia
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School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds LS1 3HE, UK
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Saddletops Pty Ltd., Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
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School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
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Equitation Science International, 3 Wonderland Ave, Tuerong, VIC 3915, Australia
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1644; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091644
Received: 28 August 2020 / Revised: 9 September 2020 / Accepted: 10 September 2020 / Published: 13 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion)
Horse owners and caregivers are ideally placed to inform equine researchers about the training, management and behaviour of their horses, and online surveys are a simple and easy way to collect this information. However, as potential survey respondents may need some incentive to engage in detailed surveys, we investigated the popularity of four potential no-cost tools to compensate survey participants for their time. While our inquiry found at least one of these tools would be of benefit to most participants, it also revealed the need to improve horse riders’ and handlers’ access to scientific findings.
Over the last decade, equitation scientists have increasingly relied on online survey tools to gather information on horse training, management, behaviour and other equine-related subjects. With a detailed knowledge of their animals, horse owners and riders are ideally placed to contribute to research but are sometimes reluctant to engage with and devote time to surveys. The current article reveals, through consultation with stakeholder groups, the potential of a range of motivational items to boost horse-owner participation. A short, three-question inquiry was developed to rank respondents’ (n = 747) preferred survey tools and other items designed to engage the equestrian community with the donation of data. Respondents were asked to assign themselves to one of four categories: academics/researchers, professionals, practitioners and enthusiasts. The inquiry offered respondents the choice of three hypothetical tools: a standardised tool to measure behaviour over time; a logbook tool to record training and behaviour on a regular basis; and a chart to compare an individual horse’s behaviour with that of the general horse population. While analysis revealed that stakeholders considered at least one of the tools to be useful, it also exposed significant differences among the perceived usefulness of the various tools themselves. Using free-text responses, participants described the challenges faced when gathering information on horse training, management and behaviour. Qualitative analysis of these data revealed the need to improve the current dissemination of scientific findings to bridge various knowledge gaps. The Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ) is a longitudinal instrument that investigates horse training and management practices and permits an analysis of their relationship with behaviour. The current stakeholder consultation contributed to the final version of the E-BARQ questionnaire, identified incentivising items that can be offered to putative E-BARQ respondents, guided the eventual selection of a Share-&-Compare feedback chart, and reinforced the need for open-access dissemination of findings. View Full-Text
Keywords: online survey; equine behaviour monitoring; welfare; rider safety; motivating stakeholders; domestic equine triad online survey; equine behaviour monitoring; welfare; rider safety; motivating stakeholders; domestic equine triad
MDPI and ACS Style

Fenner, K.; Dashper, K.; Wilkins, C.; Serpell, J.; McLean, A.; Wilson, B.; McGreevy, P. Building Bridges between Theory and Practice: How Citizen Science Can Bring Equine Researchers and Practitioners Together. Animals 2020, 10, 1644.

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