• Effective horse behaviour consultancy: An exploration by means of a social cognition approach

      Creighton, Emma; Jobling, Ruth (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2010-05)
      Behaviour problems are common in domestic horses. It is suggested that the aetiology of these problems may lie in a lack of understanding of horse ethology, in particular learning theory. Horse behaviour consultants offer a vehicle for educating owners and promoting a thorough understanding of these principles which, in turn, will help to resolve behaviour problems and minimise the associated welfare concerns. Where the services provided by horse behaviour consultants are effective they are likely to be promoted. An effective service is dependent on the client's adherence to the advice given and, therefore, this research aimed to establish recommendations to horse behaviour consultants on how to foster adherence to their advice. The established science of human behavioural change has largely been applied in the field of health psychology to indentify predictors of adaptive behaviour. A thorough review of human behavioural change literature identified ten cognitive variables that had the potential to predict adherence to the advice of a horse behaviour consultant. Established self-report questionnaire methodology was adopted to survey an opportunistic sample of 52 clients of horse behaviour consultants before they received the advice (initial cognitive profile), ten days after (changes post-communication) and at three months follow-up (long-term changes). The self-reported responses were validated by telephone. Data were preliminarily analysed using correlation analyses and subsequently multiple regression analyses were used to generate a model for adherence. Of the client's initial cognitive profile, less attribution of the horse's behaviour problem to external factors (r = -0.316) was associated with increased adherence ten days after the communication. Horse behaviour consultants cannot influence what clients come into the process perceiving, however, they are able to influence cognitive variables during the communication. The amount of post-communication change in value of the outcome of adhering to the advice (beta = 0.338) and attribution of the horse's behaviour problem to external factors (beta = 0.309) were significant elements of a multiple regression analysis that explained 23.6% of the variance in adherence ten days after the communication (F2,35= 6.700, p = 0.003). At three months follow-up there were no associations between adherence and the earlier cognitive profiles, but clients who showed a three month increase in positive attitude towards horse behaviour consultants were more likely to adhere long term (r = 0.389). The findings suggest that horse behaviour consultants will benefit clients by demonstrating the effects of the advice early in the communication, so that clients value their efforts to adhere and continue to do so. Horse behaviour consultants may also foster adherence to their advice by developing the client's perception of an external, controllable cause of their horse's behavioural problem, which may build confidence in the client's ability to address the problem.