Websites are now on a par with veterinarians as the preferred source of research-based information on horses in the racing and breeding industry, according to New Zealand research.
The findings were based on a 16-question online survey conducted in New Zealand in May last year. The findings have been published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.
Massey University researchers Charlotte Bolwell, David Gray and Janet Reid set out to identify the research-based educational needs and preferred dissemination methods for the thoroughbred and standardbred racing and breeding industries.
A total of 602 usable survey responses were included in the data analysis.
The researchers found that respondents were most interested in research-based information on feeding and nutrition, injuries and lameness, health and exercise, and training.
Veterinarians, websites, friends or other horse owners, and printed magazines were used most often for obtaining information on equine research. These sources were also rated as most preferred.
Social media and other online sources, such as videos and forums, were rarely used.
Of the respondents that provided information about the sources used most, 48 per cent listed websites as the most common source used for information, followed by veterinarians (11 per cent), magazines (10 per cent), and friends or other horse owners (10 per cent).
In total, 643 names of specific sources that were currently used for information on equine research were listed by respondents. Most sources were listed by only one or two respondents.
Sources listed by more than 2 per cent of respondents included media produced by both the racing sectors’ governing bodies in New Zealand and national and overseas (US) media.
The most common source listed by respondents was Google (14 per cent), followed by New Zealand Harness Racing Weekly (11 per cent), New Zealand Horse & Pony magazine (7 per cent), New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing magazine (6 per cent) and The Horse website (4 per cent).
Veterinarians were rated as “most preferable” or “preferable” by 80 per cent of respondents, while 77 per cent rated websites as “most preferable” or “preferable” sources.
Print magazines, online and print newsletters, and friends or other horse owners also had a high percentage of respondents rating each source as preferable.
The researchers noted that, in agreement with other studies of racing industry participants, most respondents in this study were male and were older. In contrast, studies of the general horse population in New Zealand and in the United States reported that most horse owners were female.
The results, they said, highlighted the demographic differences apparent in various sectors of the equine industry, which would need to be considered in the development of extension programs.
Feeding and nutrition, exercise and training, injuries, and breeding and care of foals were topics that were of most interest to respondents. “These topics reflect the predominant roles of the members of the sample population (breeders and trainers) and indicate that respondents are interested in topics that pertain to their role in the industry,” the researchers said.
“Despite the likelihood that a number of respondents would be running their own businesses, topics on business management were of the least interest to most respondents.”
While other extension programs have used social media for disseminating information, respondents in the study never or rarely used social media and other online sources of information.
“Additionally, these were the least preferable sources for information on equine research in the current study. This is likely due to the age demographics of the study population,” the researchers wrote.
The results showed that seminars were not frequently used by respondents and were not preferred as a source for research information. In contrast, recreational horse owners indicated in an unrelated study that workshops or demonstrations would be “most helpful” for learning.
It was likely that the commitment needed to attend a seminar at a certain date and time did not easily fit with the commitments of the target population, the researchers suggested.
Lead author Bolwell acknowledged the rise of the internet as a source of information, but added a word of caution.
She told Horsetalk: “The internet provides an easily accessible source of a wealth of information, so it is of little surprise to see the rise of the internet as a source of equine research information.
“However, some caution is needed due to the wide variation in the quality of information that is available online.
“Internet users are encouraged to assess the source and details of any information offered carefully.”
She noted how the internet was effectively now a necessary tool within the industry. The breeding and racing industry governing bodies maintained websites, where members were required to complete several administrative tasks online.
Identifying the Research Information Needs of the Racing and Breeding Industries in New Zealand: Results of an Online Survey. Charlotte Bolwell, David Gray, Janet Reid.
Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 1 March 2013 (Article in Press DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2012.11.004)