Capturing Beneficial Changes to Racehorse Veterinary Care Implemented during the COVID-19 Pandemic
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Methods
2.1.1. Participant Recruitment
2.1.2. Data Collection
2.2. Data Analysis
- The data sets (transcripts) were first read and re-read independently by both authors to familiarise themselves with the data, colour highlighting the data sets to provide a rough outline of any similarities, patterns and ideas that may relate back to the research questions. The vet and trainer transcripts were analysed as independent cohorts to start with.
- Rudimentary labels from each cohort were produced with handwritten links to textual extracts from within the data sets. Using the data sets, the authors compared the rudimentary labels each had generated. Initial codes were sketched out using the labels at the latent or semantic levels of analysis for each cohort .
- Using the research questions as guides, themes (coherent and meaningful patterns that capture and summarise a meaningful pattern in the data) were identified. This was an active and at times messy process.
- The draft themes were reviewed and checked against the codes and the full data set.
- Four themes were decided upon. These were good working relationship pre COVID-19, little or no change in the vet–trainer relationship (first “lockdown”), beneficial changes to veterinary care and poor connectivity and its effect on technology. Table 3 outlines the themes, codes and their relationship to the research questions.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Good Working Relationship Prior to COVID-19
“I can ring our vet about a horse that has a problem we have not really seen before. We had one horse who had a horrible rash, like ringworm but it wasn’t as we know what that is. I rang [the vet] and he suggested what we might do, which we did. We don’t have a routine weekly visit and try not to call him out, cost I suppose, to the owner being one reason. He [vet] has said he is happy for us to ring him directly, on his mobile and if it’s an emergency we do and he tries to get to us as soon as he can.”(racehorse trainer)
“it took a while to build up a good working relationship with the vet, a relationship that could be trusted.”(racehorse trainer)
“professional people, who know their horses and are used to dealing with most ailments, in the same way farmers are with their livestock. It’s different with leisure riders, they often don’t have the depth of experience, that knowledge. I know if I am called out to a yard to look at a horse then it must be something quite serious or an on-going lameness for example that isn’t improving.”(vet)
“if you can’t meet a trainer’s needs, their horses are not running well in spite of what you may have suggested, or so and so practice “cured” a fellow trainer’s best horse. There is always the other practice who seem more digitally savvy, seem to have better technology, seem to have better outcomes in terms of [horses] performance and are always cheaper.”(vet)
“It takes me a long time to get confidence in a vet. I think they are generally far too keen to use technical equipment, frequently too keen to rely on that equipment when good old fashioned ‘stockmanship’ is what I require when assessing a horse’s lameness, diagnosis and prognosis. Scans, X-rays and scopes sometimes confirm or clarify what you think you know, but they certainly do not cure them, and frequently, if a vet who has just met the horse and does not appreciate the full history of the horse, comes in and relies too much on technical machines, they end up not even treating the right ailment… Several vets have let me down, even older more mature vets. I can name on one hand the vets I really rate, and only two live near me, therefore I would have to be desperate to contact a vet practice I did not personally know.”(trainer)
4.2. Little/No Change in Vet/Trainer Relationship (during First Lockdown)
“We carried on as normal …no change really so I’m not sure what else I can tell you…” (trainer) and “we hardly needed a vet and don’t get him out very much anyway, only when we need. I don’t think, can’t remember doing any different to what we did before with any veterinary care when “lockdown” stopped everything.”(trainer)
4.3. Beneficial Changes to Veterinary Care during the First “Lockdown”
“Lockdown meant we could not have our weekly visits (from the vet). We still had some of our flat horses in work and overall, ringing him [vet] or sending a picture seemed to work reasonably well. If we had a horse who was not coming sound we would film the horse trotting up and send that through. If then he [vet] thought the horse needed seeing he would come out.”(racehorse trainer)
“I would ask the trainer or senior staff to video the horse in question. If it was a decent recording it was useful to look at before going out to see the horse. It gave me time to maybe run through treatment options in my head. For example, if it was a video of a lame horse say, it wouldn’t be something I could give a definite diagnosis to from the video, but at least I got an impression of how that horse was moving on that day when the trainer got in touch.”(vet)
“I will be so glad when things can return to normal. We all want to do the best for our horses, that goes without saying, but when my secretary showed me the invoice from our vet and there was a charge for having a chat on the phone about a lame horse then getting one of my staff to send images which we then dealt with, once he [vet] had looked at them, well, I wasn’t very impressed. All the money they [vet practice] get from us too.”(trainer)
“… actually look, observe and assess a case. Yes, ok, at the moment it is harder, but when things are managed, social distancing, wearing masks and having only one other person there if needed I feel it is far better in terms of welfare. I think trainers prefer the hands-on approach anyway.”(vet)
“the vaccination app has helped us as it has meant we don’t have to worry now about passports being forgotten, or worse lost when they get taken with the runners to a race meeting in case they have to be checked. You don’t know ‘til you get there if they [raceday staff] might want to look at a passport and if they do need to check, do a trot up for instance, the vets come after you have the horse in their stable and have got them hopefully settled.”(trainer)
4.4. Poor Connectivity and Use of Technology
“I found myself having to sit in the car at the end of the road about half a mile from the [racing] yard with a bag full of passports as that was the only place I could nearly guarantee I would get enough signal to upload the vaccination records. It took ages. It has been said that this region will be one where 5G will be trialled, so I hope they hurry up and get a move on as at the moment our connectivity to anything is pretty poor.”(trainer)
“On a couple of occasions, when trainers had sent images through and videos they wanted me to look at in case the horse needed looking at, as an emergency, I struggled to get the videos to download properly. I found myself having to drive to places where I knew I would get good signal or drive to the practice as the internet was faster, all adding time to being able to assess a case.”(vet)
“Sometimes I would be sent an image of a horse with a cut and the trainer would want to know if it needed stitching which would have meant going out to the yard during ‘lockdown’, as an emergency. The images weren’t always the best, they would either be too far away or make the wound look bigger, wider than it was or even from a funny angle. They would be blurred and difficult to know where or what part of the horse had been cut. I would end up having to phone and guide them through taking the images then sending them through. Great when the signal was good, not if the signal was poor.”(vet)
4.5. Limitations to the Research
Institutional Review Board Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Trainer||Type of Yard|
|Number of Horses in Training pre COVID-19||Number of Horses in Training during Lockdown|
|Trainer 1||Combined licence||35||4|
|Trainer 2||Combined licence||40||2|
|Trainer 3||NH licence||9||2|
|Trainer 4||NH licence||92||8|
|Trainer 5||Flat licence||80||80|
|Trainer 6||Dual licence||86||40|
|Trainer 7||NH licence||40||30|
|Trainer 8||Combined licence||104||60|
|Trainer 9||Flat licence||30||20|
|Trainer 10||Combined licence||40||20|
|Vet||Practice Location||No. of Equine Vets Dealing with Horses in Training and Type of Practice|
|Vet 1||Lambourn||8 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 2||Lambourn||7 equine vets, equine hospital plus companion animal surgeries|
|Vet 3||Newmarket||12 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 4||Gloucestershire||11 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 5||Worcestershire||3 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 6||Gloucestershire||11 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 7||Yorkshire||4 equine vets, farm and small animal practice|
|Vet 8||Yorkshire||4 equine vets, farm and small animal practice|
|Vet 9||Newmarket||15 equine vets, equine hospital|
|Vet 10||Shropshire||3 equine vets|
|Good working relationship pre COVID-19||No real virtual interactions|
Use of WhatsApp™/Phone calls
Trust in vet
Trainer as a “professional” person able to deal with non-emergencies
Trainers seem to prefer face-to-face consults
|Little/No change in vet–trainer relationship (during 1st lockdown)||No difference in the vet–trainer relationship|
Less face-to-face interactions with vet
Increase in WhatsApp™/Phone for vet consults
Fewer visits made
|-||Visits for emergencies only||-|
|-||Fewer equine injuries||-|
|Beneficial changes to veterinary care||Telephone/Images/Videos were used for remote triaging||RQ 2,3|
|Poor connectivity and use of technology||Phone signal very poor in some areas||-|
|-||Training for vets and trainers on producing usable images of, for example, a wound, or video of lameness||-|
|-||Vaccn’app dependent on good connectivity||-|
|-||Vaccn’ app initially very time consuming, but should be worth it to record medications given||-|
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Butler, D.; Upton, L.; Mullan, S. Capturing Beneficial Changes to Racehorse Veterinary Care Implemented during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals 2021, 11, 1251. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051251
Butler D, Upton L, Mullan S. Capturing Beneficial Changes to Racehorse Veterinary Care Implemented during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1251. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051251Chicago/Turabian Style
Butler, Deborah, Lois Upton, and Siobhan Mullan. 2021. "Capturing Beneficial Changes to Racehorse Veterinary Care Implemented during the COVID-19 Pandemic" Animals 11, no. 5: 1251. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051251