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Erica Brown at the Equine Student Conference

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15 July 2020

Two of our final year students have been selected to present their Honours Research Project (HRP) dissertations today at the Equine Student Conference. Sarah Mansell and Erica Brown’s pieces will be presented virtually alongside others offering insightful discussion into the equine field. Here, Erica shares an overview of her HRP and her Harper journey.

Erica’s interest in her studies manifested from childhood. She commented: “From a young age, I have always had a keen interest in animals while science was my most loved subject at school, particularly biology aspects. This pushed me to look more into animal health, and I- like many - hate to see animals suffering so I was keen to explore the welfare side of animal health.

“I initially studied FdSc Animal Management and Welfare prior to topping up onto the BSc (Hons) Animal Management, Health and Welfare degree I now hold. Harper holds a strong reputation within animal and agricultural industries, shown in its high employment rate across such industries. This was always important to me for my future career path.”

With this in mind, Erica’s HRP has a focus on the welfare of horses. Having completed her Professional Research Project at the end of her FdSc degree researching foaling protocols and equine reproduction, she took this passion into a secondary research project. Entitled An Investigation into Equine Supplementation – Factors Influencing Supplement Use and Owner Perception, Erica gave an overview of her essay: “With a keen passion in equine health and nutrition, this was an excellent topic to investigate due to variation within the equine community and opinions on nutrition and supplements in particular.

“I looked into the scientific evidence behind supplements and whether they were scientifically proven to give the desired effects some owners want; for example, do supplements which target joints actually show evidence of making a difference on a biological and chemical level? I also looked into relevant laws and legislation the common horse owner and competition riders should be aware of as this is a fundamental aspect of protecting horse health and welfare. The final aspect of my literature review was an investigation into factors which influence consumer choice and selection of products before incorporating substances into the horses’ diet  - whether owners research products or not.”

To gain an insight into owners’ knowledge, Erica worked on an online questionnaire. She said: “I gained a total of 385 responses in an attempt to gain an insight into owner use and perception of supplements. I also conducted statistical analysis of many of these questions to identify any associations within the data set. The questionnaire was split into three basic sections: demographic data; use of supplements; and understanding and knowledge of products.

“After reviewing responses, it was evident that there is a distinct lack of knowledge particularly surrounding important laws which competition riders must be aware of as there are some products on the market which do not comply with legislation set by a large equine board (FEI), and owners can administer prohibited substances if they are not aware of this legislation.”

Having seen these results, this was Erica’s motivation to be part of the Equine Student Conference. She commented: “As horse owner knowledge must be expanded to protect equine health, and I feel like my research can help educate the public and spread awareness. I am most looking forward to making connections with other keen graduates who may be looking to work in the industry, along with giving back to the equine community by providing education to the public, and share my interesting findings.

“I also wanted to showcase my work as a thanks to my dissertation tutor, Stephanie Wood. Stef has been absolutely amazing with every query I have had throughout my entire project, I cannot speak highly enough of how brilliant she has been.”

You can join the Equine Student Conference this afternoon at 16:30. To register for the event, click here.

To read about Sarah’s research being taken to the Equine Student Conference, click here.

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