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Benefits of Animal Exposure on Veterinary Students’ Understanding of Equine Behaviour and Self-Assessed Equine Handling Skills

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School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
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College of Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
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School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(9), 620; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090620
Received: 1 August 2019 / Revised: 23 August 2019 / Accepted: 25 August 2019 / Published: 28 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Equids)
First-year veterinary students often lack recognition of horse behavioural signals and exposure to animals. Based on self-assessments, we studied their level of knowledge of equine behaviour and their equine handling competency before starting the programme. A previous exposure to horses and/or companion animals (on their own property) seemed to confer an advantage in the interpretation of equine behaviour and self-reported equine handling competency.
Horses are one of the most dangerous animals veterinarians have to work with. For many veterinary students, their first exposure to horses occurs during practical classes. To evaluate the level of knowledge students have of equine behaviour and their equine handling competency when entering the programme, 214 veterinary students (1st and 4th year) were recruited to participate in a questionnaire. Participants were asked to choose one out of 12 terms that best represented the affective state of a horse in a picture, and to self-assess their equine handling skills. Half (n = 56/115) of the first-year students correctly interpreted the horse’s behaviour. The majority had (1) a poor understanding of equine learning mechanisms and (2) poor self-rated equine handling skills. A history of pet ownership (p = 0.027) and the presence of horses on their family property (p = 0.001) were significantly associated with a correct understanding of equine behaviour. Fourth-year students were three times more likely to accurately interpret the horse’s behaviour (p = 0.01) and rated their handling skills higher than first-year students (p = 0.006). These results suggest that previous animal experience confers a considerable advantage to interpret equine behaviour and highlight the critical importance of practical training in the veterinary programme. View Full-Text
Keywords: horse; behaviour; welfare; veterinary teaching; equine handling horse; behaviour; welfare; veterinary teaching; equine handling
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Guinnefollau, L.; Gee, E.K.; Bolwell, C.F.; Norman, E.J.; Rogers, C.W. Benefits of Animal Exposure on Veterinary Students’ Understanding of Equine Behaviour and Self-Assessed Equine Handling Skills. Animals 2019, 9, 620.

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