Survey On Horse Owners’ Use of Veterinary Care

Results of an online survey of horse owners can help veterinarians understand what owners want from their vets.
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Results of an online survey of horse owners can help veterinarians understand what owners want from their vets.

Results of an online survey of horse owners can help veterinarians understand what owners want from their vets.

At the 2017 AAEP Convention, David Ramey, DVM, reported on the results of an online survey that was conducted in December 2016. The survey targeted horse owners and had 8,069 respondents. A link to the survey was distributed on the presenter’s Facebook page and shared exponentially. The results were analyzed by simple descriptive statistics.

Of the 8,069 respondents, Ramey reported that two-thirds participated in trail and pleasure riding, and 38% in dressage. 27% participated in hunter/jumper activities, 16% in eventing and 14% in Western performance. In the category of “Other,” in which 22% participated, were included companions (pets), polo, clicker training, saddle seat, fox hunting, pleasure driving, equine assisted therapy and reining. Ramey noted that respondents could choose multiple activities—thus, the total exceeds 100%.

The speaker reported that 96% of the respondents had owned horses more than five years, and three-quarters of them had more than one horse. 59% of the respondents reported that each of their horses saw a veterinarian two to four times per year. While the vast majority (79%) of those visits were for vaccinations, 77% reported visits for dental work, 45% for lameness and 39% for acute illness (which included colic, respiratory disease and skin problems).

Respondents were asked: “What part of the veterinary visit was most satisfying to you?” Although the question asked for the “most satisfying,” multiple responses were allowed, so the cumulative percentage exceeds 100%. 

65% of respondents indicated that the treatment received was the most satisfying part of the visit, followed by 50% who chose the veterinarian’s skill, 38% who chose bedside manner and 25% who chose value.

When asked whether they would use the same veterinarian the next time their horses needed care, 93% answered in the affirmative, said Ramey.

The respondents were also asked “If you could improve one aspect of your veterinarian’s services, what would it be?” 

30% wished that the veterinarian would discuss costs, 22% wished for more discussion of treatment options, 18% desired better communication about the horse’s condition, 18% wanted the veterinarian to arrive on time, and 12% wanted more input on their feelings about their horses’ health.

Ramey reported that 80% of respondents found their veterinarians through word of mouth. 

When asked “How well does your veterinarian listen to you?” 43% of respondents answered that they listened “extremely well,” 38% “very well” and only 1% answered “not at all well.”

Equally positive results were reported with regard to the veterinarian answering the respondents’ questions, with 44% reporting “extremely well” and 39% reporting “very well.” 

Ramey explained that seven questions inquired about the importance to respondents of certain aspects of veterinary care.

He reported that 89% feel it is important for veterinarians to discuss the cost of care before treating horses; 44% feel veterinarians should simply do as the clients say because they know their horses best; 56% feel it is important that veterinarians inquire about their feelings; 87% expressed the importance of veterinarians educating them about their horses’ care; 93% felt it is important for veterinarians to show kindness to their horses; 80% felt it is important for veterinarians to show kindness to them; and 51% indicated it was important for equine veterinarians to own horses.

In keeping with known demographics about horse owners, Ramey reported that the survey respondents were 98% female, 50% were ages 40–60 years old and 60% worked full time.

The final questions, he stated, involved the annual expenditures of horse owner respondents. 84% reported that their total expenditures per horse exceeded $1,000, and 26% reported that their veterinary expenditures exceeded $1,000 per horse per year.

Ramey concluded with the following highlights:

  • Because 77% of respondents saw their veterinarians for dental services, those practices not offering this service might want to reconsider;
  • Clients are more interested in their horses being treated with kindness than themselves treated that way;
  • Discussions of the cost of treatment and treatment options are highly valued by clients;
  • Communication is important to clients, and veterinarians are doing this well;
  • Education from veterinarians is sought by horse owners;
  • A significant number of horse owners think they know what is best for their horses, so listening to these people is essential; and
  • Almost all of the horse owners who responded to this survey found their veterinarians through a recommendation.