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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 11;14(7):e0219771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219771. eCollection 2019.

Descriptive analysis of horse movement networks during the 2015 equestrian season in Ontario, Canada.

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Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Horses are a highly mobile population, with many travelling locally, nationally, and internationally to participate in shows and sporting events. However, the nature and extent of these movements, as well as the potential impact they may have on disease introduction and spread, is not well documented. The objective of this study was to characterise the movement network of a sample of horses in Ontario, Canada, over a 7-month equestrian season. Horse owners (n = 141) documented their travel patterns with their horse(s) (n = 330) by completing monthly online questionnaires between May and November 2015. Directed networks were constructed to represent horse movements in 1-month time periods. A total of 1754 horse movements met the inclusion criteria for analysis. A variety of location types were included in each monthly network, with many including non-facilities such as parks, trails, and private farms. Only 34.3% of competitions attended by participants during the study period were regulated by an official equestrian organisation. Comparisons of the similarity between monthly networks indicated that participants did not travel to the same locations each month, and the most connected locations varied between consecutive months. While the findings should not be generalized to the wider horse population, they have provided greater insight into the nature and extent of observed horse movement patterns. The results support the need to better understand the variety of locations to which horses can travel in Ontario, as different types of locations may have different associated risks of disease introduction and spread.

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