Accepted Manuscript Equine caregiver information-seeking preferences: Surveys in the Midwest H.K. Carroll, R.C. Bott-Knutson, S.L. Mastellar
To appear in:
Journal of Equine Veterinary Science
Received Date: 19 November 2017 Revised Date:
4 February 2018
Accepted Date: 5 February 2018
Please cite this article as: Carroll HK, Bott-Knutson RC, Mastellar SL, Equine caregiver informationseeking preferences: Surveys in the Midwest, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.jevs.2018.02.006. This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.
Equine caregiver information-seeking preferences: Surveys in the Midwest
2 H. K. Carrolla*, R. C. Bott-Knutsona,1 and S. L. Mastellara,2
3 4 5
University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
Department of Animal Science, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
Present address: Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, South Dakota State
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Present address: The Ohio State University, Agricultural Technical Institute, Wooster, OH,
State University, Animal Science Complex Box 2170, Brookings, SD 57007-0392. Email:
Correspondence should be sent to Heidi Carroll, Department of Animal Science, South Dakota
Two surveys of equine owners/managers and professionals using convenience sampling via
multi-modal distribution were conducted on perceptions of equid Health and Well-being (n =
142) and equine Nutrition and Feeding practices (n = 151). Surveys were distributed in 2014-
2015 (Health and Well-being) and 2016 (Nutrition and Feeding) to similar email lists and social
media sites; both included questions regarding information-seeking preferences. Respondents
were mostly female (62% Health and Well-being, 84% Nutrition and Feeding) and had over 20
yrs of equine ownership/management experience (47% and 61%, respectively). Participants in
the Nutrition and Feeding survey reported seeking information from veterinarians (77%),
books/magazines (42%), horse enthusiasts (38%), friends/family (35%), Internet/social media
(28%), feed company representative (28%), farrier (25%), scientific publications (25%),
trainer/instructor (21%), equine nutritionist (19%), equine dentist (7%), extension specialist
(7%), and radio (1%). The Health and Well-being survey requested information regarding
participants’ likeliness (5-point Likert scale) of trusting various sources for animal well-being
information. Respondents from the Health and Well-being survey indicated
veterinarians/nutritionists (average = 4.5) and extension specialists/university personnel
(average = 4.0) as their top two trusted sources of information, and local (average = 2.9) and
national humane societies/rescues (average = 2.8) their least-trusted sources of information.
These results elucidated the information-seeking preferences of horse owners from the Upper
Midwest regarding two equine topics. Veterinarians are sought as a source of equine
information in the Upper Midwest.
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Keywords: equine nutrition; information-seeking; veterinarian; horse owner preferences; well-
38 1. Introduction
Knowledge, experience, and perceptions regarding equine care vary and studies characterizing
information-seeking behaviors in the American Upper Midwest equine industry are lacking.
Studies have examined information-seeking behaviors of equine owners in the United Kingdom
 and the American competition industry , Tufts’ clientele , horse enthusiasts in the
Netherlands , and Arizona livestock and equine producers . This information is important
for equine educators, extension personnel, and organizations for addressing needs and
interests through educational outreach. Equine nutrition and health have been identified as
topics of interest to members of the Midwest equine industry [6, 7]. As part of a broad
assessment of industry perceptions in the Upper Midwest, two separate surveys were used.
Questions regarding horse owners’ and professionals’ information-seeking behavior were asked
in each survey. The objective of this project was to characterize the information-seeking
preferences of equine owners/managers and industry professionals in the Upper Midwest.
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2. Materials & Methods
This project utilized the results from two separate, larger survey projects to determine
perceptions of equine industry professionals as well as horse owners and managers in the
Upper Midwest regarding their information seeking preferences on equine topics. One survey
focused on equine health and well-being  and the other focused on equine feeding practices
and knowledge of equine nutrition . Both surveys were promoted via articles on the SDSU
Extension portal (http://igrow.org), news releases, and personal email invitations to South
Dakota equine organizations. The Horse Health and Well-Being survey was the first large survey
initiated in the target population and a longer period was necessary to gather responses on the
topic; thus it was available from April 2014 to June 2015, while the Nutrition and Feeding
Practices survey was available from September to October 2016. The surveys are available upon
request. Approval was granted for the two separate surveys by the South Dakota State
University (SDSU) Human Subjects Committee.
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2.1. Health and Well-being Survey
Multi-modal distribution of the Horse Health and Well-Being survey  included the
distribution of printed surveys in-person at equine-related events, an online version
(QuestionPro Survey software), and mailings on an as-requested basis.
Three specific survey questions were relevant to the current project’s goal.
1) “We'd like to know what resources may be most beneficial to you regarding
animal well-being issues and topics. Please check each item that you would
find valuable as an animal owner/manager (check all that you prefer).”
Options included: Lecture presentations, Seminars by experts,
Handouts/summaries, Fact sheets, Adult events/workshops,
Emails/newsletter, and Youth events/workshops.
2) “What resource or reference do YOU go to FIRST when you need information
about animal health and well-being? Please list only ONE.”
3) “Please indicate the likeliness that YOU would place your trust in the following
sources (Internet search-key word search results, Scientific publications, Local
humane societies or rescues, National humane societies or rescues, Government
organizations, Veterinarian or nutritionist, Extension specialist or university
personnel, and Other animal owners) as trustworthy, reliable, and unbiased for
information about animal well-being.” Options included: Very Unlikely,
Somewhat Unlikely, Undecided, Somewhat Likely, and Very Likely.
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2.2. Nutrition and Feeding Practices Survey
The Nutrition and Feeding Practices survey  was developed as an online questionnaire
(QuestionPro Survey Software). The target population was horse owners or facility managers in
South Dakota or the bordering states.
95 96 97
Two specific survey questions were relevant to the current project’s goal. 1) “Where do you seek information regarding equine nutrition and feeding
practices (Select all that apply)?” Options included: Books/magazines,
Scientific publications, Internet/social media, Radio, Trainer/instructor,
Veterinarian, Equine dentist (not a licensed Veterinarian), Farrier, Equine
nutritionist, Feed company, Friends/family, Horse enthusiasts or other
owners, Extension specialist, and Other.
2) “Which resource(s) are most beneficial to you regarding equine feeding and nutrition topics (Select all that apply)? Options included: Lecture
presentations, Seminars by experts, Handouts/summaries, Fact sheets, Adult
events/workshops, Youth events/workshops, Email/newsletters, and Other.
105 2.3. Data analysis
True response rates were not calculated, as the total number of people reached was unknown.
Since the surveys were separate projects and unique identifiers were not collected, there may
be respondents that took both surveys. Descriptive statistics were performed on the relevant
questions for each survey. The authors acknowledge the limitations of question design and
methodology that exist to draw direct comparisons of these data.
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112 3. Results
This short communication highlights the relevant questions to information-seeking behavior;
full survey findings are discussed elsewhere [8, 9]. The Health and Well-being survey had 142
respondents and the Nutrition and Feeding survey had 151 (Figure 1). The majority of
respondents were female (Health and Well-being = 62%, n= 135; Nutrition and Feeding = 84%, n
= 150) and indicated they had over 20 years of equine ownership/management experience
(Health and Well-being = 47%, n = 131; Nutrition and Feeding = 62%, n = 149).
Both surveys prompted respondents to identify their preferred informational sources (Table 1).
The Health and Well-being survey also included an open-ended question asking what resource
respondents seek first for animal health and well-being information. Respondents (n = 126)
indicated that veterinarians (60%) are sought first followed by Internet (18%),
books/journals/literature (6%), extension specialist or university personnel (3%), other equine
professionals (2%), and laws/regulations (1%).
The Health and Well-being survey asked the likeliness of trusting various sources for animal
well-being information (Table 2). Respondents’ (n = 120) top two trusted sources of information
included veterinarians/nutritionists (average score = 4.5) and extension specialists/university
personnel (average = 4.0). The two sources of information revealed as the least likely trusted
sources included local (average = 2.9) and national humane societies/rescues (average = 2.8).
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The Nutrition and Feeding survey respondents (n = 140) indicated that veterinarians are the
most sought source for equine nutrition and feeding practices information (Figure 2); whereas
radio (1%), equine dentists (7%), and extension specialists (7%) were the least sought sources.
The most beneficial way of receiving equine information for the two topics surveyed differed
(Table 1). Respondents of the Health and Well-being survey (n = 142) indicated seminars by
experts (51%), youth event/workshops (49%), and adult event/workshops (43%) to be the most
beneficial ways of receiving health and well-being information; whereas Nutrition and Feeding
respondents (n = 151) indicated fact sheets (45%), email/newsletter (37%), and
handout/summaries (37%) for nutrition and feeding practices information.
These results identified the types of resources respondents preferred seeking regarding two
equine topics. Equine topic may influence decisions to attend in person programming within
Minnesota . Respondent preferences for modes of communication regarding each topic vary
(Table 1). For example, a youth event/workshop on a health and well-being topic might be
better received than one on nutrition. Arizona producers indicated workshops, hands on field
days, and web sites or social media as their top three preferred mechanisms for information
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Veterinarians are the most sought source of equine information regarding these two topics in
the Upper Midwest. Previous literature also identifies veterinarians [2, 3, 4, 5, 6] as highly
sought sources of equine information. Hockenhull and Creighton  found that equine topic
influenced the preferred source of information sought as well as indicated demographic
variables that may influence the likelihood of seeking a specific source. Respondents of the
Health and Well-being survey indicated “veterinarians or nutritionists” were the most trusted
source of information regarding that topic. Veterinarians may be useful in dissemination of
equine health and nutrition information through partnerships with extension personnel and
It is interesting to note that “extension specialists or university personnel” were considered
trusted sources of animal health and well-being information, but neither “extension specialists”
nor “extension specialists or university personnel” were among the first sought resources for
the topics. Previous literature has also identified that extension services may be underutilized
by the equine industry [5, 7].
169 5. Conclusions
These results characterized information-seeking behavior of equine caregivers in the Upper
Midwest regarding two equine topics: health and well-being and nutrition and feeding
practices. Veterinarians are the preferred source of information on these topics and thus may
be a valuable source to disseminate information. Awareness of perceived source
trustworthiness and preferred mode of communication regarding equine information allows
educators to effectively focus outreach efforts. Outreach professionals can better target the
location and type of information shared based on these preferences.
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We would like to thank equine and rodeo organizations of South Dakota and surrounding
states, the South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, and South Dakota State University
students for their cooperation in and promotion of this survey project. This research did not
receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit
sectors. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
 Hockenhull, J, Creighton E. A brief note on the information-seeking behavior of UK leisure
horse owners. J Vet Behav 2013;8:106-110.
 Lofgren, EA, Voigt, MA, Brady, CM. Information-seeking behavior of the horse competition industry: A demographic study. J Equine Vet Sci 2016;37:58-62.  Hoffman, CJ, Costa, LR, Freeman, LM. Survey of feeding practices, supplement use, and
knowledge of equine nutrition among a subpopulation of horse owners in New England.
J Equine Vet Sci 2009;29:719-726.
 Visser, K, VanWijk, E, Kortstee, H, Verstegen, J. Passion for horses: Improving horse welfare
communication through identifying information search patterns, knowledge levels,
beliefs, and daily practices of horse enthusiasts. J Vet Behav: Clin. Appl. Res. 2011;6:297.
198 199 200 201
 Greene, EA, AD Wright. Identifying equine-related cooperative extension program priorities in Arizona via a statewide survey. Journal NACAA. December 2017; 10:2.  Hartmann, KS, Liburt, NR, and Malinowski, K. Rutgers Equine Science Center Industry Needs Assessment Survey 2016. J Equine Vet Sci, 2017;48:1-8.
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 Martinson, KL, Hathaway, M, Wilson, JH, Gilkerson, B, Peterson, PR, and Del Vecchio, R. University of Minnesota horse owner survey: Building an equine extension program.
Journal of Extension, 2006;44:1-8.
205 206 207 208 209
 McNeill, LR, Bott, RC, Mastellar, SL, Djira, G, Carroll, HK. Perceptions of equid well being in South Dakota. J Appl Anim Welfare Sci 2017;1:40-68.
 Rosenthal, EJ, Bott-Knutson, RC, Carroll, HK, Mastellar, SL. Assessment of Equine Feeding Practices and Knowledge of Equine Nutrition in the Midwest. 2017; Manuscript in press.
Figure captions Figure 1: Maps of survey respondents’ locations for the Health and Well-being survey (Figure 1a; from , counties) and the Nutrition and Feeding survey (Figure 1b; from , zip codes).
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213 214 215
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210 211 212
Figure 2: Resources sought by Nutrition and Feeding survey respondents for equine nutrition and feeding practices information. Question was select all. Total survey respondents = 151; 11 blank responses for this question. Veterinarian Book/magazine Horse enthusiast/owner Friend/Family Internet/Social media Feed company Scientific publication Farrier Trainer/Instructor Equine nutritionist Extension specialist Equine dentist Radio
11 10 1 0
43 43 37 37 32 29
63 57 53
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Sources of information
216 217 218
221 222 223
Tables Table 1: Resources selected as the most beneficial way of receiving equine information by respondents in two surveys on their respective topics.1
Nutrition and Feeding Survey (n = 151)
Responses (%) 51
Seminar by experts
Health and Well-being Survey (n = 142)
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Questions read “select all that apply” with same response items on each survey.
Table 2: Likeliness that respondents of the Health and Well-being survey trusted the source as trustworthy, reliable, and unbiased for animal well-being information.1
Frequency of Response2 Somewhat unlikely
Extension specialists/university personnel
Other animal owners
Internet key word search
Local humane society/rescue
National humane society/rescue
4.5 ± 0.8
4.0 ± 0.9
3.9 ± 1.0
3.8 ± 1.0
3.3 ± 1.1
3.1 ± 1.2
2.9 ± 1.3
2.8 ± 1.3
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Source of information
Total survey responses = 142; blank responses = 22 for this question. Likert scale (1 = very unlikely, 2 = somewhat unlikely, 3 = undecided, 4 = somewhat likely, 5 = very likely). 3 Average score ± standard deviation.
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Characterized information-seeking behavior of equine caregivers in Upper Midwest.
Veterinarians are the preferred source of information for several equine topics.
Stakeholders may prefer different modes of communication for different topics.
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Conflict of interest statement:
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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or non-profit sectors. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.