Straight From The Horse’s Mouth: Is He Happy?

Good equine welfare may not be as easy to determine as we think, says Natalie Waran, PhD, who lectured at the 2017 International Society for Equitation Science conference. Equine welfare involves physical, mental, behavioral and emotional considerations, Waran said. The only way to truly be sure the horse is experiencing good welfare is to understand a horse’s emotional state, she notes.

The Horse reported that previously a horse’s welfare was measured by whether or not he was in pain. Social needs were then taken into account, but Waran says reliable tools to understand good welfare from the horse’s point of view are still lacking. A true evaluation of welfare would involve asking the horse how they are, she said.

Though scientists can measure physical parameters that indicate strength of emotions, they don’t indicate if those emotions are positive or negative. Waran is interested in what scientists are considering the “consumer approach” where horses can choose what they would like. The research is currently being tested on laying hens that can press a button to do things like choose more food or a dust bath.

Waren stresses that it’s important to understand that equine welfare is more than what can be seen and that welfare spans a horse’s lifetime. Waran and her research team are looking at aspects they feel should be studied in the “Equine Quality of Life (EQoL) Framework,” which will allow those working with horses a concrete way to assess the horse’s life experience.

It’s hoped that this framework will help ensure that horse’s emotional needs are being met.

Read more at The Horse.


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