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Caring for the Older Horse: A Conceptual Model of Owner Decision Making

Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Chester High Road, Neston, Cheshire CH64 7TE, UK
Institute of Population Health, University of Liverpool, Waterhouse Building, Block B, Brownlow Street, Liverpool L69 3GL, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Joanna Hockenhull
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1309;
Received: 16 April 2021 / Revised: 29 April 2021 / Accepted: 30 April 2021 / Published: 2 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Horse-Human Interactions and Their Implication for Equine Welfare)
Horse owners are key to facilitating the care that their horse receives. This study sought to understand how management and health care decisions are navigated by owners of older horses. Online discussion forum threads were selected to explore everyday conversations between horse owners around issues of concern relevant to older horse care. Analysis identified seven common themes in owner decision making; the human–horse relationship, horse-related responses, integrated geography, purpose, influences on behavioural outcomes, resources and life worth living. The characterisation of each theme was unique for each human and horse; themes could change over time and were dynamically interrelated. A conceptual model was developed to demonstrate how themes can change in meaning and importance, affecting the human–horse relationship and impacting upon choices made for a horse. This model can be used in the development of practical tools to assist those involved in the care of older horses.
The number of aged horses in the UK has been growing over recent years, with many horses remaining active and being cared for into old age. However, increasing age is paralleled with a heightened risk of morbidity and mortality; therefore, owners of older horses must manage changes in their horse, making decisions about management and health care provision. In this paper, we discuss data collected from an open-access online discussion forum, where forum users sought advice arising from concerns about their older horse. Qualitative data analysis was performed using grounded theory methods. A conceptual model was developed to demonstrate the multifaceted ways in which ageing affects the human–horse relationship and impacts upon outcomes for the horse. The model reflects the dynamic nature of caring for an older horse to accommodate change over time—outcomes for the horse shift as the context of day-to-day life changes. The model provides novel insight into how decisions around older horse care are made. View Full-Text
Keywords: human–horse relationship; companion animal welfare; qualitative research; online forum human–horse relationship; companion animal welfare; qualitative research; online forum
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MDPI and ACS Style

Smith, R.; Pinchbeck, G.; McGowan, C.; Ireland, J.; Perkins, E. Caring for the Older Horse: A Conceptual Model of Owner Decision Making. Animals 2021, 11, 1309.

AMA Style

Smith R, Pinchbeck G, McGowan C, Ireland J, Perkins E. Caring for the Older Horse: A Conceptual Model of Owner Decision Making. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1309.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Smith, Rebecca, Gina Pinchbeck, Catherine McGowan, Joanne Ireland, and Elizabeth Perkins. 2021. "Caring for the Older Horse: A Conceptual Model of Owner Decision Making" Animals 11, no. 5: 1309.

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