Exeter Equine is a research group within the University of Exeter with emerging expertise in horse vision and horse genetics. The work produced by the research group has applications for horse and rider welfare and safety, horse training and performance, breeding, livery and transport, course and fence design, and can be applied across different equine sectors. Exeter Equine can undertake research projects and studies into these areas, in addition to offering consultancy and design services.
The research group is led by Professor Alastair Wilson, Dr Martin Stevens, and Patrick Sharman (PhD). Dr Sarah Paul, Dr Jocelyn Poissant and Miranda Walter also contribute to the research in this group.
Martin Stevens’ lab has approximately 15 years of experience developing and working with techniques to analyse visual information. This includes using digital photographs that have been converted to the vision of other animals to understand how other species see and respond the natural and human world. Our methods enable us to create and analyse images to horse vision, with regards to colour, acuity, and field of view, and to test and create new objects and features designed to horse vision. This can include, for example, assessing the visibility of fences and hurdles, the use of visual information in training, the effects of light conditions, and of potential distractions during races and events. We are also investigating issues related to housing and transport of equines. Our work can be used to better understand issues related to training and performance, safety, and welfare. Currently, we are collaborating with the British Horseracing Authority, British Eventing, the Donkey Sanctuary, and various other organisations and companies.
Alastair Wilson’s group contains globally leading expertise in the use of statistical genetic approaches to understanding how traits respond to selection. Our equine research is currently focussed in two areas. Firstly, we are interested in the genetics of performance and health traits in the GB thoroughbred racehorse population. In this work, led by Patrick Sharman, we use statistical models to determine the extent to which trait variation is attributable to genetic factors and to make predictions of the genetic merit of individual horses. This allows us to study the genetic basis of trait changes seen in the population, and could lead to development selection strategies that target genes to simultaneously improve performance and health.
A second area of research, led by Jocelyn Poissant, in close collaboration with Canadian researchers is testing the genetics of parasite resistance in feral horses. By resolving the genetic basis of links between parasites, stress and organismal health indicators in the absence of human intervention, we can gain important insights for improving equine welfare in managed populations.