The Horse Trust has delivered the UK’s first CPD courses on equine behaviour modification techniques for vets and veterinary nurses.

The one-day courses, held at The Horse Trust’s Home of Rest for Horses in Buckinghamshire, aimed to develop the practitioner’s skills in handling challenging horses using the objective, evidence-based principles of equitation science.

The training was led by Gemma Pearson, senior clinical training scholar in equine practice at the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, who specialises in dealing with behavioural cases.

She reviewed equine ethology and learning theory, and explained how these principles can be used to address behavioural problems encountered by vets and nurses in their day-to-day work.

The courses placed a strong emphasis on hands-on practical sessions and delegates were shown video case studies and demonstrations of techniques that can be used to handle horses that are clipper shy and difficult to worm, vaccinate, shoe and load. Delegates were then given the opportunity to practice many of the techniques themselves.

Liane Preshaw, welfare development manager at The Horse Trust and organiser of the course, said vets and VNs often had to deal with horses performing potentially dangerous behaviours.

“It’s important they are able to utilise handling techniques that are effective, humane and based on a scientific understanding of horse behaviour and learning theory,” she said.

“These skills will help to keep them safe, protect the horse’s welfare and also enable them to act as a source of knowledge for horse owners.

“These are the first courses of their kind and we are delighted with the positive feedback received, and plan to run further courses next year.”

Vet Alastair MacVicar, principal of the Anvil Equine Veterinary Clinic in West Sussex, said the course had had been interesting and gave practical insights into adapting poor behaviour in horses.

“This will have direct benefits by allowing us to offer more involved advice to owners who are being tested by their horse’s poor behaviour,” he said.

“It also impressed me with regards to the relative rapidity with which some poor behaviour can be modified – a matter of just half an hour in some cases.”

Andy Forsyth, senior veterinary technical advisor at Ceva Animal Health – manufacturers of the equine appeasing pheromone product ConfidenceEQ and sponsors of the course – said he believed such training should have been available 20 years ago in the UK vet schools.

“It would be invaluable for dealing, on a day-to-day basis, with the caseload in any mixed, equine practice or charity, allowing a safer and more effective environment for equine patients and their owners,” he said.

“It was a great pleasure for us to be involved in this course and our thanks go out to all involved for an excellent and thought provoking day of CPD.”

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