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Conversations in Equine Science

Conversations in Equine Science

By Nancy McLean
Kate Acton (from Ireland) and Nancy McLean (from the USA) discuss equine research projects and studies to help bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general community of horse owners, trainers and enthusiasts.
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Weather Changes and Equine Colic
Diakakis, N., Tyrnenopoulou, P. (2017). Correlation between equine colic and weather changes. Journal of the Hellenic Veterinary Medical Society, Vol. 68, pp. 455-466. Cianci, J., Boyle, A.G., Stefanovski, Darko, Biddle, A.S. (2021). Lack of Association Between Barometric Pressure and Incidence of Colic in Equine Academic Ambulatory Practice. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Vol 97. Fintl C, Hudson NP, Handel I, Pearson GT (2016). The effect of temperature changes on in vitro slow wave activity in the equine ileum. Equine Veterinary Journal Vol 48. (Open Access)
February 26, 2021
Horses show emotion while observing social interactions between other horses and humans in videos.
Research Reference: Trösch, M., Pellon, S., Cuzol, F. et al. (2020). Horses feel emotions when they watch positive and negative horse–human interactions in a video and transpose what they saw to real life. Anim Cogn 23, pp. 643–653 Link:
February 19, 2021
Research on the Attachment Bonds of Horses to Humans.
Research Reference: Lundberg Paulina, Hartmann Elke, Roth Lina S.V. (2020). Does training style affect the human-horse relationship? Asking the horse in a separation–reunion experiment with the owner and a stranger. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 233, December. Link to Research Paper: Link to Daily Mail Article:
February 12, 2021
Using Acute/Chronic Workout Ratios to Assess an Equine Fitness Program
Research Resource:  Munsters, Carolien, Kingmac, Boris, van den Broeke, Jan, van Oldruitborgh-Oosterbaana, Marianne (2020). A prospective cohort study on the acute:chronic workload ratio in relation to injuries in high level eventing horses: A comprehensive 3-year study. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 179.
February 5, 2021
Equine Obesity Seminar by Dr. Ruth Morgan from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (University of Edinburgh)
Resources : Equine Obesity is defined as abnormal excessive fat that presents a risk to health. It is a disease of domestication. Cushing's Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome Fact Sheet:
January 29, 2021
The impact of the sex of handlers and riders on certain equine behaviors.
Anzulewicz, A.; Fenner, K.; Hyde, M.; Heald, S.; Burattini, B.; Romness, N.; McKenzie, J.; Wilson, B.; McGreevy, P. (2021). The Impact of the Sex of Handlers and Riders on the Reported Social Confidence, Compliance and Touch Sensitivity of Horses in Their Care. Animals 11, 130. For information on the Equine Behavior and Assessment Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ) go to
January 22, 2021
Girth Pressure: Standard Girths vs Anatomical Girths
Research Papers: Murray, R., Guire, R., Fisher, M., Fairfax, V. (2013). Girth pressure measurements reveal high peak pressures that can be avoided using an alternative girth design that also results in increased limb protraction and flexion in the swing phase. The Veterinary Journal 198.  pp. 92-97. Millares-Ramirez, E, Le Juene, S. (2019). Girthiness: A Retrospective Study of 37 Horses (2004-2016). Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 79. pp. 100-104. van Iwaarden, A, Stubbs, NC, Clayton, HM (2012).  Anatomy of the Equine M. Cutaneus Trunci in Relation to the Position of the Saddle and Girth. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 32. pp 519-524.
January 15, 2021
Interview with Richard Mott, Researcher from the University of Glasgow
Research Paper: Mott R.O., Hawthorne S.J., & McBride S.D. (2020). Blink rate as a measure of stress and attention in the domestic horse (Equus caballus). Scientific Reports (10). pp. 1-8. Open source link:
January 8, 2021
Holiday Episode...the end of the year review!
Kate and Nancy discuss their most popular episodes. For Pasture Management information please follow this link: Happy 2021 Everyone!
January 1, 2021
Spontaneous Blink Rate in Horses.
Reference: Mott, R. O., Hawthorne, S.J., McBride S.D. (2020). Blink rate as a measure of stress and attention in the domestic horse (Equus callabus). Scientific Reports, 10.  Open source link:
December 25, 2020
Training the older horse.
Research Reference: McKeever, K.H. (2016) Exercising and rehabilitation of the older horse. Vet Clin Equine (32) pp. 317–332 Book Reference: McLean, Nancy (2014). Horse Blankets, Coolers and Sheets...a Guide for Safe and Proper Use. (Amazon Kindle)
December 18, 2020
Journaling and Reflecting on your horse interactions as an Equine Coach or as an Owner/Rider.
Reference Resources: Winfield, J., Williams, J., and Dixon, M. (2013). The use of reflective practice to support mentoring of elite equestrian coaches. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring Vol. 11, No. 1, February 2013 pp. 162-179. Equilab App in the App Store. Lisa Ashton on Facebook @ "Coffee for Horse Lovers".
December 11, 2020
Episode 24: Horses, Saddles and Riders: Applying The Science.
Reference Resource: H. M. CLAYTON,  S. DYSON,  P. HARRIS and A. BONDI (2015), "Horses, Saddles and Riders: Applying The Science." Equine Veterinary Education,  27 (9) pp. 447-452. doi: 10.1111/eve.12407. Joyce Harman, DVM (2004). The Horse's Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book. Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont, USA.
December 4, 2020
Horse-Human Interactions using Equine Assisted Therapy.
Reference Resources: Schlote, Sarah. (2019) Security in Connection and Co-regulation: Safeguarding the Horse from Traumatic Re-enactments in EQUUSOMA. Therapy Centers:
November 27, 2020
Episode 22: EponaMind Metron Hoof Software
Reference Website:
November 20, 2020
Interview with Tom Brodahl with Hudson Aquatics (Equine Water Treadmills)
Join Kate and Nancy as they interview Tom Brodahl on the advantages of using water treadmills for the rehabilitation and conditioning of our equine companions and athletes. To contact Tom about the treadmills and/or spa:
November 13, 2020
Biomechanics of Locomotion in The Athletic Horse.
Reference List: Barrey, Eric (2014). 'Biomechanics of locomotion in the athletic horse' Ch. 10 in Hinchcliff, KW, Kaneps AJ, & Geor, RJ. Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, Saunders, Edinburgh. pp. 189-209. Lameness Lab #1:
November 6, 2020
Water Treadmill Rehabilitation and Conditioning.
Research Reference: Greco-Otto, Persephone et al., 2017. "Workload of horses on a water treadmill: effect of speed and water height on oxygen consumption and cardiorespiratory parameters". BMC veterinary research, 13(1), p.360. Industry videos: ECB: Hudson Aquatics:
October 30, 2020
Keeping Water Tanks Clean and How Goldfish May Help!
Research Reference: Catalano, Devan N et al., 2019. The Effect of Goldfish (Carassius auratus) on Water Quality in Horse Stock Tanks. Journal of equine veterinary science, 79, pp.73–78. Key "takeaways" : Keep tanks clean. Water odor, temperature, turbidity and color will determine intake. Horses should drink  1 gallon of water per 100lbs or for a 1,000 lbs horse = 10 gallons per day. Preferably 10 to 15 gallons/day. A horse eating fresh grass (pasture) will require less water while a horse eating hay usually requires more water. A mentally and physically thriving horse is usually given required amounts of forage, water, movement (turnout) and social interaction with conspecifics.
October 23, 2020
High starch diets and their effect on behavior.
Research Reference: Bulmer, Louise S et al., 2019. High-starch diets alter equine faecal microbiota and increase behavioural reactivity. Scientific reports, 9(1), pp.18621–11. The equine digestive tract is better suited to a high fiber-fat low starch diet. This type of diet results in healthier microbial populations within the intestines and results in a more settled pattern of behavior. Horses are designed to eat small amounts more frequently mimicking grazing/trickle feeding behavior.
October 16, 2020
Psychological Factors Affecting Equine Performance
Research References: McBride, Sebastian D & Mills, Daniel S, 2012. Psychological factors affecting equine performance. BMC veterinary research, 8(1), p.180. For optimal performance of our equine partners we need peak physical fitness and a correct psychological state. Within that psychological state there are 3 components; Temperament, Mood and Emotional Reactions. Stereotypical Behaviors and Persistence Article: Hemmings A, McBride SD, Hale CE: Perseverative responding and the aetiology of equine oral stereotypy. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2007, 104(1–2):143–150.
October 9, 2020
What Makes an Elite Equestrian Rider
Research Reference: Lamperd, W., Clarke, D., Wolframm, I., Williams, J.(2016). What makes an elite equestrian rider? Comparative Exercise Physiology, 12(3), pp.105–118. Wolframm, I., Williams, J., Marlin, D. (2015). The role of personality in equestrian sport: an investigation. Comparative Exercise Physiology 11: 133-144. Books Recommended:  "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and "How Good Riders Get Good" by Denny Emerson
October 2, 2020
Episode 14: The Influence of Music on Stabled Horses.
A Preliminary Study Investigating the Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Occurrence of Nocturnal Equine Sleep-Related Behavior in Stabled Horses. (2019) Naomi Hartman , Linda Margaret Greening * Equine Science Department, Hartpury University, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, UK (Beethoven's 9th Symphony used in the above referenced research paper).
September 25, 2020
Interview with Kate Fenner of Kandoo Equine
Kate Fenner is an Equine Scientist (BEqSc (Hons), Charles Sturt University), PhD candidate (Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney), equestrian coach (Equestrian Australia and British Horse Society), horse trainer (John and Josh Lyons Certified Trainer). Kate has ridden, trained and competed in Dressage, Jumping, Western and polo in Australia, Europe, USA and Asia. After years of experience starting horses for clients, Kate feels strongly that owners are best served by learning to train their own horses. As a result, she founded Kandoo Equine and has developed a series of ethical, easy to follow, step-by-step guides that are suitable for horses and riders of all levels. She is currently completing her PhD on the development of the Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ). Contact Information:
September 18, 2020
Episode 12: The Equine Behavior Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ)
Kate and Nancy discuss the benefits of the E-BARQ standardized tool for assessing horse behavior.. This application collects data on horse behavior, management and training. Horse behavior is a reflection of each horses' management and training. The platform is hosted by the University of Sydney. We encourage every horse enthusiast, researcher, professional and practitioner to participate in E-BARQ! Link: Next week Kate and Nancy will be interviewing Kate Fenner who has worked on E-BARQ as her PhD project. She also owns Kandoo Equine. Check out her website or email us with questions you want us to ask her. Thanks everyone!  
September 11, 2020
Episode 11: Interview with Keith Austin, Thoroughbred Trainer
Keith grew up 20 minutes from Louisiana Downs where Thoroughbred racing was the center piece for his family. He is a multiple stakes placed jockey with $2.4 million in earnings. As an actor he played Sham's jockey in the movie Secretariat. He was an Assistant Trainer for D.Wayne Lukas and Tom Amoss. He also spent time as an exercise rider for Mark Casse. This spring Keith became the Head Trainer for Man of Steel Enterprises, LLC. He currently has 4 starts, 3 wins and 1 third place finish.  Keith can be contacted via his FaceBook Messenger at Keith Andrew Austin. 
September 4, 2020
Episode 10: Equine Coronavirus-a decade long journey to investigate an emerging enteric virus of adult horses.
Kate and Nancy discuss Equine Coronavirus as an emerging viral disease in adult horses and the parallels, it seems to exhibit, with our current human pandemic. (There is no evidence to indicate that horses could contract SARS-CoV-2 or that horses may be involved in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to other animals or humans.) *Out of 132/600 (2 to 4 years old) race horses that were exposed to equine coronavirus 22% were positive with symptoms (10% of these horses were reported to have GI symptoms).  Referenced research:  Pusterla, N., (2020). Science‐in‐brief: Equine coronavirus – a decade long journey to investigate an emerging enteric virus of adult horses. Equine veterinary journal, 52(5), pp.651–653.
August 28, 2020
Episode 9: Are there evidence based behavioural differences between geldings and mares?
Research Reference:  Aune, Anna et al., 2020. Reported Behavioural Differences between Geldings and Mares Challenge Sex-Driven Stereotypes in Ridden Equine Behaviour. Animals (Basel), 10(3), p.414.
August 21, 2020
Episode 8: (Part 2) A look at coercive riding technique (Rollkür).
Research Thesis (Phd): Uta Ulrike Von Borstel (2007). Fear In Horses and How It Is Effected By The Rider, Training and Genetics. This study provides evidence that horses unaccustomed to being ridden in Rollkür prefer regular poll flexion rather than Rollkür. Horses were also more likely to exhibit behavior patterns indicative of discomfort or frustration when ridden in Rollkür than when ridden in normal poll flexion. This is supported with increased heart rates that reveal higher emotional arousal during Rollkür.  Fear reactions were also stronger after being ridden in Rollkür versus normal poll flexion. These results suggest that Rollkür may compromise the horses welfare and impact rider safety.
August 14, 2020
Episode 7: (Part 1) Fear In Horses and How It Is Effected By The Rider, Training and Genetics.
Research Thesis (Phd): Uta Ulrike Von Borstel (2007). Fear In Horses and How It Is Effected By The Rider, Training and Genetics.
August 7, 2020
Episode 6: Human odor and its connection to fear based reactions in the horse.
The research we talk about this week is in relation to the following scientific paper: Lanata, Antonio et al (2018). A Case for Interspecies Transfer of Emotions: A Preliminary Investigation on How Human Odors Modify Reactions of the Autonomic Nervous System in Horses. Conference proceedings :  Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual Conference, 2018, pp.522–525. Next week we continue our discussion on fear based reactions in horses and riders by discussing the PHd thesis entitled  "Fear in the horse and how it is effected by the rider, training and genetics. This will be a 3 part series. Author: Ute Ulrike von Borstel (2007). We hope you join us! We appreciate each and every one of you!
July 31, 2020
Episode 5: Nutrition considerations for the aged horse.
Jarvis, N., Paradis, M.R., Harris, P. (2019) Nutrition considerations for the aged horse.  Equine Veterinary Education 31(2), pp 102-110. Summary: "As the proportion of aged horses within the general equine population appears to be increasing in the UK and other developed countries, it is important to be aware of the changing dietary requirements associated with the aging process and age related diseases. This review provides guidelines for optimal nutrition of the older horse with practical approaches to improve or maintain body condition and support general health."  Listen in as Kate and Nancy discuss these guidelines and recommendations. Below is the link to Equi-Analytical for Hay/Fresh Forage and Grain analysis.
July 24, 2020
Interview with Brittany Davis of Davis Equine Services
This is our first interview of the series. You can check out Brittany and her business at Davis Equine Services, Didsbury, Alberta, Canada. The website address is (Due to internet differences there may be some sound discrepancies). Next week Kate and Nancy will be back assessing research on the nutritional needs of senior horses. Thank you for listening!
July 17, 2020
Episode 3. Exercise and Equine Metabolic Syndrome.
Pagan, J.D., Martin, O.A., Crowley, N.L. (2009).Relationship Between Body Condition and Metabolic Parameters in Sport Horses, Pony Hunters and Polo Ponies. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 29(5). pp. 418-420. Obesity has been associated with insulin resistance in horses and ponies. This study seems to conclude that overweight sport horses and ponies are less likely to be hyperinsulinemic than sedentary horses and ponies.  Equine Metabolic Syndrome can be controlled through a management protocol of diet and exercise. Points to note:  1. The cresty neck score is designed to assess the amount of fatty deposits in the horse’s nuchal ligament area. This assessment is independent of body condition score.  2. It is recommended that you use a combination of palpation and visualisation to obtain the score.  3. The characteristics of different breeds may influence your score. For example, you are likely to score a Draught horse higher than a Thoroughbred when they may in fact have the same degree of fat deposits. Cresty Neck Score: (0 to 5 scale, 3 and above is considered problematic.) 0 - no crest or fat deposit present 1 - no visual appearance, but fat can be palpated. 2 - noticeable appearance of a crest, but fat deposited fairly evenly from poll to withers. Crest easily cupped in one hand and bent from side to side. 3 - Crest enlarged and thickened, so fat is deposited more heavily in middle of the neck than toward poll and withers, giving a mounded appearance. Crest fills cupped hand and begins losing side to side flexibility. 4 - Crest grossly enlarged and thickened, and can no longer be cupped in one hand or easily bent from side to side. Crest may have wrinkles/creases perpendicular to topline. 5 - Crest is so large it permanently droops to one side. Cresty Neck Ratio: Circumference of middle of neck in inches (neck should be in a relaxed position) divided by Height in inches. (Centimeters can also be used) If answer is greater than .63 in a horse or .68 in a pony it is time to take action to begin reducing that crest. Link to FeedXL for nutritional support:
July 10, 2020
Episode 2. Pain in the horses mouth. Do we have a "bit" of a problem?
This week Kate and Nancy delve into the research of Dr. David Mellor and N.J. Beausoleil (2017). The paper is entitled Equine Welfare during exercise: An evaluation of breathing, breathlessness and bridles. This was published in Animals, 7(6) p. 41.   Dr. Mellor also recently published (2020) "Mouth pain in horses: Physiological Foundations, Behavioral Indices, Welfare Implications and Suggested Solution. (Free on Google Scholar).  Dr. David Mellor's Youtube link and presentation: Bits in U.S. racing:,so%20far%20not%20permitted%20it.
July 3, 2020
Episode 1 : The role of personality in equestrian sports.
This research was an investigation by I.A. Wolframm, J. Williams and D. Marlin. Kate and Nancy discuss the ramifications and conclusions of this study.
June 26, 2020
Intro Episode
In this introductory episode, Kate and Nancy discuss their Edinburgh experience in the Equine Science MSc and how they have gone from teaching partners to podcast co-hosts.
June 19, 2020