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Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate equine livery yard owners’ opinions of emergency conditions, and to identify factors influencing emergency decision making in the horse.

Background: There is limited data on horse owners’ opinions and decision making in emergency conditions.

Evidentiary value: An online questionnaire was distributed to UK livery yard owners accredited with the British Horse Society. There were 104 survey participants, who represented experienced owners with responsibility for care of a number of horses.

Methods: The questionnaire consisted of open and closed questions on participants’ demographics, their experiences and opinions of the most common equine emergency conditions, and emergency decision making. Descriptive data analysis included frequency ranking and categorisation of free text responses.

Results: The majority of respondents had kept horses for more than 10 years (97%), and reported previous experience of emergency conditions (99%), predominantly colic (96%) and wounds (92%). Participants considered that the most common emergency conditions were colic (98%), wounds (49%) and fractures (22%), and the most concerning conditions were colic (94%), lameness (36%) and wounds (21%). Factors believed to be important in emergency decision making were: degree of pain, likelihood of condition resolving, and severity of disease.

Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of colic and wounds as emergency conditions in the horse, and describes factors considered important in emergency decision making.

Application: The outcomes identify where research and clinical resources should be targeted to improve emergency care for horses. The results were used to inform a survey of the wider horse population.

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