Presenting at the Equine Science Society Symposium

Following on from submitting her doctoral thesis, Katie Williams M.Sc. (Dist) R Nutr, Technical Manager at Dengie Horse Feeds, presented her findings at the Equine Science Society 2023 Symposium in Dallas, Texas.

Katie’s paper, titled ‘A detailed analysis of consultations between equine nutritionists and a client’, was included in the Journal of Veterinary Science proceedings of the symposium. The aim of Katie’s work was to explore the effectiveness of equine nutritionists including their ability to empathise with horse owners and communicate effectively. Studies in the medical and veterinary professions often show that clinicians can find it hard to raise the issue of obesity and can also struggle to empathise with clients. Katie was keen to establish if nutritionists experienced the same issues.

Katie Williams presenting at the ESS in Dallas

“It was really encouraging to find that the client assessing the nutritionists rated them all very highly for parameters linked to empathy” shared Katie, “and they all highlighted the potential for the ponies featured in the consultation to become obese suggesting that nutritionists don’t appear to have the same issues with talking about obesity as other professionals might”.

An additional area of interest for Katie generated by the study was how the use of jargonistic or euphemistic language impacts the relationship with the horse owner but also how seriously they take the advice given. “We have to be very careful not to downplay the seriousness of issues such as a horse or pony being overweight by using informal language but equally we want to speak in a way that ensures we are approachable and understandable” says Katie, “so the next step is to investigate whether what we say has an impact on whether horse owners implement and adhere to the advice given.”

Katie’s trip to the USA has been particularly interesting as many of the challenges are the same as in the UK, in particular the increased workload pressures on equine vets and therefore scope for equine nutritionists to be utilised more to provide the long term help and support horse owners need to manage their horse’s weight. Katie’s study was very well received at the symposium and has already generated lots of interest for collaborations and further work.