Moreton Morrell College students have discovered the impact treatments can have on stress in horses after tapping into the expertise of a state-of-the-art research centre.
Maya Grist and Kaya Wales are both studying degrees at the college and have been conducting research into cortisol in horses using saliva swab tests conducted at the Agri-Tech Research Centre at Pershore College – both part of college group WCG.
The pair both conducted separate research projects, with Maya researching the impact of cryotherapy on horse stress levels and Kaya focusing the effect that the use of essential oils can have on the animal.
Maya, 21 from Swindon, is studying a three-year degree in Equine Therapy and Rehabilitation.
Her research looked heart rates, behaviour and saliva swaps of cortisol. If a horse has long-term higher levels of cortisol production it can affect the rate that an injury can heal.
Maya said: “If something swells up you use cryotherapy technique or put cold water on it to reduce the swelling – but if this results long term significant cortisol production it can affect the healing.
“While cortisol levels are validated as a way of measuring stress, there wasn’t any research out there that looked at specifically the impact cryotherapy might have.
“I looked at different treatments and worked with four different horses. There were obvious trends in my data and in particular it showed that the cold water spa treatment did induce a slight stress response.
“I’m interested in continuing to research cryotherapy and hope that it can play a role in my future career, as I am particularly interested in hydroptherapy and cryotherapy.”
Kaya, 25 from Stratford upon is in the final year of her Equine Science degree.
She tested the effects of seven different essential oils on seven horses from Oxstalls farm and racing stud. Since essential oils have become a popular therapy, Kaya set out to study how these oils affected equine behaviour, heart rate and stress levels.
Kaya said: “Essential oil use has increased rapidly in recent years and they can now be found in all types of products from equine bedding, cosmetics and even supplements. However there remains little research on their full effects.”
“It’s hoped that some essential oils, such as Tea tree can be used to treat mild infections whilst eucalyptus, Lavender and Orange oil may be used in place of some harsher chemical fungicidals, antimicrobials, antibiotics and pesticides.
“Horse reactions varied depending on the oil used, some energizing and some relaxing. However the majority reaped a calming response.
“We received a huge amount of support from the team at the Agri-Tech Research Center and it was great to be able to work in such a fantastic lab.”
Dr Anjana Patel and Professor Roy Kennedy at the Agri-Tech Research Centre at Pershore College supported Kaya and Maya in completing their tests and processing results.
Dr Patel added: “We were pleased to be able to support Maya and Kaya with their projects, and it shows the versatility of the equipment we have at Pershore College that we were able to carry out these tests for them.
“We supported them both with measuring the cortisol levels in horse saliva. It was interesting for us to see other applications of our equipment and a pleasure to be able to support their research.”