University Students’ attitude towards Horses improved with participation in an Equine Activity

Image Alex MastAuthor: Haley Preston – 2nd year student
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christine Skelly
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Waite
Co-author: Gwynn Shelle
Co-author: Tom Guthrie
Co-author:Paula Hitzler


The Michigan State University Horse Teaching and Research Center (HTRC) is open to the public every day. In 2022, 865 Michigan State University students took part in classes at the HTRC, representing only a fraction (1.74%) of the 49,696-student population. This study explored how student participation in a horse activity influenced their attitude toward horses. MSU students (n = 115) were recruited for this study using a campus wide poster campaign, Facebook posts, club and class announcements. Students were randomly divided into 3 activity groups: Guided walk primarily taking place on a farm lane with no opportunity to observe horses (n = 37); a self-guided tour of HTRC with the opportunity to both observe and interact with horses (n = 38); and grooming a horse (n = 40). Students completed a pre and post activity survey immediately before and after their 30-min activity. Both surveys included 8 questions regarding attitudes toward horses using a 5-point Likert scale. Five questions were modeled after the Pet Attitude Scale and 3 questions described what students might experience during their activity (do you like observing, caring for, or petting a horse). A repeated-measures ANOVA in SPSS showed that mean horse attitude scores improved significantly between pre and post test overall (F(1, 112) = 39.879, P < 0.005) and there were no differences between activity groups. During registration, student demographics were collected, and students answered questions about their previous horse experience. Most students participating in this study were undergraduates (78.2%, n = 90). Participants represented 14 colleges across campus, with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources leading student participants at 36.5% (n = 42). Students described their horse experience as either inexperienced (34.8%, n = 40), novice (31.3%, n = 36), intermediate (14.8%, n = 17), experienced (9.6%, n = 11), or advanced (7.0%, n = 8). Most participants (82.6%, n = 95) strongly agreed they would recommend others to visit the HTRC. Participants in the study also planned to participate in a horse activity in the next year (70.4%, n = 81) based on their experience in this study. While it is estimated the HTRC has 30,000 visitors each year, there is not any information as to whether MSU students utilize the farm outside of classes and organized events. These results support the idea that a visit to the campus horse farm can have a positive impact on a student’s attitude toward horses. This can be important as the equine industry investigates opportunities for individuals to engage in more horse-related activities.