Channels and sources used to gather equine-related information by college-age horse owners and enthusiasts

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2009-05-15

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This thesis identifies the equine-related topics that are important to Texas college-age horse owners and enthusiasts and the channels/sources they use to get equine-related information. Little research has focused on this group to determine their information needs. Therefore, two focus groups were conducted in 2008 in Texas with college-age horse owners and enthusiasts to conduct a needs assessment. Participants were separated into competitive and recreational groups depending on their level of participation in the industry. They were asked what topics they consider important and what channels/sources they use to gain desired information. Training was the most mentioned topic overall, and the most mentioned by recreational participants. Alternative medical treatments was the most mentioned topic by competitive participants. Competitive participants reported a smaller number of topics as important, indicating that they have specialized information needs. Recreational participants emphasized broader, less specialized topics. Participants showed an interest in relevant and controversial topics affecting the equine industry. Participants also used a combination of channels/sources and competitive and recreational participants often placed importance on different channels/sources. Face-to-face communication was important to both groups. Magazines were important to competitive participants, while the Internet was important to recreational participants. Competitive participants doubted the trustworthiness of sources available through the Internet, but wanted more reliable sources to be made available in the future. Participants preferred to get information from industry specialist sources, such as trainers, veterinarians, other owners and enthusiasts, breed associations, and equine magazines. Participants? perceptions of trustworthiness were affected by the source?s ability to demonstrate equine-specific knowledge and the source?s reputation and success among equine industry members. The results suggests that the influence of the Internet has altered the traditional models of communication in which source selection determines channel use. In this study, the participants? Internet channel selection often determined their source use. The results also suggests that communicators wanting to reach this audience should target specific topics to competitive and recreational audiences, use a multi-channel approach, establish trustworthiness, and explore the changing role of the Internet in agricultural communication.

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