Too hot to trot? New focus on horse owners’ response to major weather events

Published:26 February 2018

Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson. Photo courtesy Sally Harding.

Researchers are canvassing the need for social marketing and behaviour change strategies to build the resilience of equestrian cultures to major climate and weather events.

They suggest horse owners may respond best to discussions around horse health, welfare, and biosecurity, instead of the broader narrative of climate change.

Survey findings highlight the need for official policy statements and decision-making support tools to safeguard the health and welfare of humans and horses working in extreme temperatures.

“Easy-to-use tools or smartphone applications may help to support the identification of heat-affected humans and horses and reduce the likelihood and consequence of performing or working whilst heat-stressed or fatigued,” says Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson of CQUniversity.

Associate Professor Thompson is lead author of a newly-released paper in the Rural Society journal – Too hot to trot? How horse owners in Australia have responded to major weather events – with co-authors Dr Larissa Clarkson (Australian College of Applied Psychology) and Melissa Rebbeck (Director of Climate & Agricultural Support Pty Ltd).

She says that heat stress may manifest in hours or days after a controlled event, so innovative reporting systems to track rates of heat-related incidents may be useful for determining major weather and climate event effects on horse welfare more broadly.

“For humans, widespread implementation of a worker health and safety framework in equine work and non-work environments could reduce the risk of heat stress related to major weather events for the thousands of people working in Australia's billion-dollar equine industry,” Associate Professor Thompson says.