Behaviour specialist to visit Equine Expo

Western Canadian horse owners will have the chance to meet Dr. Sue McDonnell of the University of Pennsylvania and learn more about equine beaviour during the 2020 Saskatchewan Equine Expo in Saskatoon.

McDonnell is a certified applied animal behaviourist (CAAB) and adjunct professor at UPenn’s New Bolton Center. 

The WCVM has invited McDonnell to visit Saskatoon for several educational events including a public seminar from 4:00 – 6:00 pm on Friday, February 14, 2020 in Hall C at Prairieland Park. 

During the 2-hour session, McDonnell will cover the top 10 things every horse owner should know about equine behaviour, along with other highlights, based on her three decades of observational research with horses.

McDonnell will use video clips from her extensive case library to demonstrate what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to interacting with horses. Her seminar will also include time for discussion and questions. 

Much of what McDonnell has learned about the natural behaviour of horses is based on her observations of a semi-feral pony herd at UPenn’s New Bolton Center. Members of the herd, which she established 25 years ago, are kept on about 50 acres of pasture land. The ponies aren’t handled, and they’re allowed to breed and socialize as they naturally would. 

McDonnell says observing semi-feral and feral herds has helped inform practices surrounding domestic horses. The New Bolton Center’s semi-ferl herd draws people from around the world to study their behaviour. 

“Understanding the fhythm of how things go with horses is very valuable information,” says McDonnell. “A fair amount of compromised welfare can be attributed to people just not understanding  [horses’] natural behaviour.”

“There’s no bad horse, there’s just less than ideal management.” McDonnell says it all comes down to education. 

“Everywhere you go, you see people doin what they think is right, but it’s not really the way you should actually do it,’ says McDonnell. “It’s just a matter now of educating people.”

McDonnell’s presentation is a prime example of the Saskatchewan Equine Expo’s focus on public education — a key aspect of the annual event. 

Registration for the McDonnell event closed on Feb. 7. Contact the Western College of Veterinary Medicine for more information. 

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