Equine Research Group

The aim of the Equine Research group is aligned to our mission statement which is to ‘Provide horse-industry relevant research and education within the context of equine related commerce, rural land management and agriculture'. Currently the group concentrates on nutrition, genetics, behaviour and a range of management processes that affect equine health and welfare.

Members of staff in the group are frequent contributors at international conferences and collaborate with colleagues in UK, Europe and USA on a range of research projects. We have excellent links with industry which offers a unique opportunity to see how research and commerce interdigitate and how results are translated into industry-relevant products and management recommendations.

Current PhD projects:

Evaluating energy balance in competition horses

Many leisure and competition horses are overweight precipitating metabolic diseases such as colic, insulin resistance and laminitis. This project is utilising modern fitness and satellite technologies to accurately determine energy utilisation for individual horses during work, rest and play. Data is being gathered in UK and Switzerland and will produce an individual assessment protocol for owners to use to accurately match their horse’s energy intake with energy output and thus help maintain optimal performance weight.

Detection, identification and modification of a range of allergenic epitopes in hay fodder, that cause respiratory diseases when fed to horses

The respiratory health of stabled horses is a major concern across the TB and performance horse industries. Previous research in collaboration with Haygain Ltd has proven the efficacy of steaming for reducing dust in hay. This work has now developed into a more fundamental investigation into identification of RAO allergens, better methods for determining allergy in horses and ways to mitigate respiratory disease in stabled horses. The project has several international collaborators including scientists in France, Belgium, USA. 

Behavioural probes of brain function

The current study is investigating brain function in horses and has developed exciting new non-invasive biomarkers to gain a greater understanding of how behaviour is controlled within the animal. Some of these relate to the gut-brain axis and how different feed types can have physiological consequences that manifest as different behaviours in our horses. This study has expanded to include a number of MScR projects and is allowing the group to accumulate considerable data on behaviour and causes of stereotypies in stabled horses.

Current MScR projects:

All projects are related to the above subject areas, and several are commercially sponsored. The one-year MScR qualification is an ideal way to address a smaller research question while contributing to the knowledge base in horse welfare.

  • The effect of different soaking and steaming methods on the water soluble carbohydrate content in hay for horses (Sponsored by Haygain Ltd)
  • Mapping the bacterial profile of U.K. hay and the effect of different wetting treatments on bacterial viability. (Sponsored by Haygain Ltd)
  • Efficacy of a Novel Slow Feeding System on Intake Rate and Behaviour in Normal and Hyper Reactive Stabled Horses
  • The effect of rider:horse weight ratio on stride characteristics and stress in horses
  • Investigating the efficacy of three prospective calming formulations in domestic horses (partially sponsored by Natural Animal Feeds)

For enquiries on available projects please contact any member of the equine research group below: