Equine science and research


We delve into two critical topics in the first of our new science and research column: the British Veterinary Association's findings on antimicrobial resistance in animal healthcare and the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation's efforts to enhance horse welfare in equestrian sports. Uncover insights from veterinary professionals and equestrian experts as they address these vital issues. 




The growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) 


A recent survey by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has revealed alarming statistics: 87% of UK vets are concerned about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This issue could potentially lead to a crisis in treating animal infections. The survey, conducted as part of the BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession initiative during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, highlighted multifaceted concerns in the veterinary field regarding AMR. 


A significant 84% of vets fear future restrictions on antimicrobial use in veterinary practice. Meanwhile, 75% are worried about their ability to manage post-surgical infections effectively. Concerns are particularly high among small animal practitioners, with 68% noting their clients' lack of awareness about AMR, a figure that falls to 34% among those dealing with larger animals like cattle and horses. 


This issue has gained traction following government data showing a 59% reduction in antibiotic sales for food-producing animals in the UK since 2014. This achievement, due to the collaborative efforts of vets, farmers, and the industry, places the UK among Europe's lowest antibiotic prescribers. 


BVA President, Anna Judson, emphasises the collective responsibility of vets and animal owners in tackling AMR. She advocates for adherence to prescribed dosages, completion of treatment courses, and responsible antibiotic disposal. Judson also highlights the importance of accurate medication through further tests and the risks of self-medicating pets. 


To bolster public participation in combating AMR, the BVA has issued guidelines for pet owners. These include understanding antibiotics specific use, completing prescribed courses, avoiding self-treatment or medication sharing and returning unused antibiotics. They also recommend regular health checks, nutritional diets, and updated vaccinations as preventive measures. 


BVA's Voice of the Veterinary Profession initiative during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

Furthermore, the BVA has developed resources like the 'Are you antibiotic aware?' poster to educate pet owners on responsible antibiotic use. Vets are encouraged to refer to the 7-point-plan poster for advice on responsible antimicrobial practices. 



The survey, involving 541 vets, reflects a profession deeply concerned about animal healthcare's future amidst AMR. Small animal vets particularly point out client compliance, lack of sensitivity testing, and over-prescription as AMR drivers. With 84% reporting client pressure to prescribe antibiotics - the challenge is complex. 


In conclusion, the BVA's report is a call to action for both the veterinary community and pet owners. Combating AMR requires a united front, combining professional vigilance with public education and responsible pet care. This global issue demands a proactive approach, with the UK's veterinary sector potentially serving as a model for international efforts to safeguard animal health against AMR. 



BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey is a bi-annual survey of vets drawn from BVA members and carried out by an independent research company. The Voice of the Veterinary Profession captures the profession’s views and experiences by asking questions about animal health and welfare, public health, and trends in the veterinary profession. The panel is broadly representative of the BVA membership, which is largely in line with RCVS membership. For more information about the survey, please go to bva.co.uk/voice 



Advancing Sport Horse Welfare: A Global Perspective 


The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) has conducted a pivotal study calling for enhanced education and a welfare charter to ensure sport horses wellbeing, and secure the future of equestrian sports. This initiative addresses growing concerns about horse welfare and management in competitive settings. 


The study, employing the Delphi technique, gathered insights from 104 equestrian professionals across 24 countries and various Olympic disciplines. The consensus identified key areas for maintaining horse health and welfare: training, competition, young horse management, health status, veterinary management, and horse-human relations. Notably, stable and environmental management and welfare assessment did not reach a consensus as priorities, believed to be adequately managed in the international horse community. The SWF and experts involved advocate for robust education and research, a welfare charter, and universally agreed guidelines to establish a social licence to operate (SLO) for those in equestrianism, promoting responsible and ethical practices. 


Backed by prominent equestrian federations and organisations, including the European Equestrian Federation, World Horse Welfare, and national federations, and supported academically by Hartpury University, the study marks a significant step in equestrian welfare. Looking forward, the SWF plans to expand research to include non-elite equestrians and the public, identifying areas for further investigation. The focus will be on gathering evidence on practices and management across countries and disciplines, highlighting good practices and fostering a culture prioritising sport horse welfare. 


In line with these objectives, the SWF aims to collaborate with national and international federations to offer targeted education, policy development, and regulation, enhancing sport horse health management and understanding of best welfare practices. 


Dr. David Marlin, a leading equine scientist and president of both the National Equine Welfare Council (UK) and the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation, views this research as a critical step towards a globally accepted horse welfare code of practice. He is optimistic about setting a benchmark for welfare excellence across all equestrian disciplines. 


The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation is committed to supporting sport horse health and welfare through innovative research and education. It aims to share insights and evidence-informed approaches to sport horse management and training across the equestrian industry, benefiting horses, riders, and professionals. This initiative signifies an important advancement in improving horse welfare in sports, shaping a more informed, responsible, and ethical future for equestrian sports globally. 




The founding members of the SWF are: Dr Jane Williams, Dr Carolien 

Munsters, Dr David Marlin, Dr Hayley Randle, Dr Michael Weishaupt, Dr 

Lars Roepstorff, Dr Hilary Clayton, Dr Lise Berg, Dr Katharina Kirsch and 

Dr Marianne Sloet 


Further information about the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation can be found at: 

sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com and