• Christine Keate

Horses help owners through lockdown


The coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of horse owners, a new study by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has found.


The study, carried out in collaboration with the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, looked at how the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown affected horse owners, equine veterinarians, farriers and welfare centre managers.

Led by PhD student Ashley Ward, it questioned 22 members of the equestrian community in Aberdeenshire as well as two welfare centre managers in England. It found that obstacles to communication and limitations on horse owner interaction with their animals were sources of distress and frustration for interviewees.


The report also highlights the stress placed on equine veterinarians who could be at risk of overwork and burnout as they manage their responsibility to protect public health during emergency scenarios such as the pandemic. However, there were some positive outcomes where the equine community undertook action to help overcome financial stresses and social isolation.


Ashley said: “From this study, we have been able to better understand the importance of human-animal interactions and the role that horses played in lessening the detrimental impacts of isolation and anxiety associated with uncertainty around lockdown.


“It is also of note that the pro-social actions undertaken by individuals to benefit the community had the potential to improve the wellbeing of those undertaking the activities - as well as the community they sought to benefit.

“It is hoped that such information will promote action within the industry to protect the mental health and wellbeing of its community, using actions which combat the issues raised in this research.”

The study, which was funded by Mars Petcare UK as part of a PhD studentship supported by the Scottish Funding Council Research Excellence Grant (REG), was published in a special edition of the animals journal.

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