We interview our equine expert on everything horse care
We spent 5 minutes with Mark Kennedy, our senior scientific manager for equines. Join us for our Q&A on everything horse care related...
Q. Tell us about the work you do for the RSPCA?
A. I am Senior Scientific Manager for Equines. This means I am responsible for the science underpinning our work for horses, ponies and donkeys across the RSPCA. I also bring nearly 35 years of experience around horses to the role - I've been around horses since my early teens and I've loved every minute spent around these wonderful animals. Our work and advice is evidence-based, which means it is underpinned by science and experience- it¿s not just a matter of opinion!
Q. What's the most interesting part of your work?
A. The sheer variety! One day I can be responding to a government consultation on the identification of horses, the next I might be writing a new advice guide such as our 'Understanding Your Horse's Behaviour' leaflet and then helping choose suitable horse photos for one of our Animal Life or Animal Action magazines.
Q. What do most people not realise about our rescue horses?
A. How amazingly versatile they are- and how many make great riding horses and ponies! The horses we rescue have a full health and behaviour check when they come into our care, and receive any treatment and training they need to get them ready for rehoming. We have horses that have gone on to succeed in dressage and show-jumping competitions, as well as wonderful companions for other horses. You will likely know a lot more about the history of an RSPCA rehomer than you would about a horse you buy or loan!
Q. What's involved in a typical day caring for a horse?
A. Hard work and commitment! No matter what the weather is doing, you will have to get up early in the morning to check, feed and care for your horse- including breaking the ice on frozen water buckets and getting soaked through in the rain! Then, no matter how hard a day you have had at school, college or work, you will have to do exactly the same at the end of the day, usually in the dark in winter. You will spend a lot of time between the handles of a wheelbarrow carting muck away from stables or fields! It's hard work, but the little friendly whicker your horse gives when he sees you approaching makes it all worthwhile- for me anyway!
Q. Do you have any advice that can sometimes be forgotten/most people don't know?
Yes. Take the time to simply watch your horse at home in the paddock with his companions- just being a horse. You will learn about his normal behaviour by doing this. Then, if his behaviour changes, you will recognise this quickly, helping identify problems earlier. Besides, horse behaviour is fascinating. Have you ever watched how carefully and gently a horse bites the top off a prickly plant such as a thistle, or how a horse's top lip wiggles when he is having a lovely scratch?
Q. Where can I find more advice on horse care?
Our advice and welfare webpages have lots of great tips and information on caring for your horse and ensuring they are happy, healthy and have a good quality of life. Brand new resources include a page on understanding your horse's body language, and downloadable guides to conducting an equine health and welfare check and on plants toxic to equines.
Q. Are there any myths that you hear about horses that aren't true?
Yes- that horses can sleep standing up. Actually, this is partially true- horses can rest and doze standing up, but to have the deep sleep they require daily they need to lie down. This is why it is very important that all horses have a dry, comfortable, quiet area, where they feel safe, for lying down. Like us, horses can be sleep deprived, and this may well affect their performance in competition and ability to learn in training sessions.