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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Impact of Air Contaminants on Equine-assisted Activities/Therapies

Research by Dr. Kimberly I. Tumlin, assistant professor of preventive medicine and environmental health at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, is the focus of an article in The Horse, “Equine-Assisted Therapy Staff and Volunteers Needed for Facility Air Quality Survey“.

Microenvironments within equine facilities feature many sources of air contaminants that can harm horses and humans alike. Dr. Tumlin wondered if the risks associated with air contaminants could alter the benefits of equine-assisted activities/therapies (EAA/T). People use EAA/T to improve their physical, cognitive, or emotional health through intentional interactions with horses.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-funded University of Cincinnati Education and Research Center has awarded Dr. Tumlin a pilot research grant to examine this important topic.

Air contaminants vary on horse farms, and exposures are a universal challenge. To establish a baseline understanding of work practices and potential exposures, Dr. Tumlin is recruiting EAA/T center directors and volunteer coordinators to complete an Equine Assisted Activities/Therapies Volunteer Worker Survey. This survey builds on 2018 research done by Ms. Staci McGill, a UK doctoral student in biosystems and agricultural engineering, on indoor arenas. Based on the diversity and location of their services, some EAA/T facilities rely on indoor or covered facilities. Previous research by Ms. McGill identified dust as a concern in 85 percent of horse indoor arenas.

“This research is the first step in developing understanding of the balance between risks and benefits of the horse-human interaction,” Dr. Tumlin said.

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