The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)


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Equine Welfare

However, the horse can also experience unintentional suffering, in many cases resulting from ignorance or neglect. Man also tends to believe that the horse should be permanently available. A deficit in the living conditions offered to horses often creates problems in the human-horse relationship. The horse can undergo various physical interventions, including castration, docking tail cutting , branding, or the cutting of the whiskers. Attacks on the physical integrity of the horse pose an ethical question in terms of equine welfare.


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As with other species, horse whiskers are tactile organs located around the nose and mouth that help them to perceive the environment outside its field of vision. Banned in Switzerland and Germany, the shaving of whiskers creates significant discomfort by reducing the animal's perception, which can lead them to bump into things.

Castration is primarily practiced for the convenience of humans, as it usually makes the male horse gentler and easier to handle and reduces the risk of fighting between males, while also allowing for control of the gene pool on farms. The case of shoeing is special. It was originally a means of protecting the equine foot from wear and tear on different hard surfaces. However, its usefulness is questioned by a growing number of riders who feel that being "barefoot" is more consistent with the nature of the horse. According to Pierre Enoff, the horse does not really need shoeing, which frustrates locomotion and sensory perception by forcing it to rely solely on the hoof walls, unable to use the soles or assess the terrain.

The dominant perspective of professionals in the horse world, including farriers, is to see shoeing as protection for the hoof. Similarly, moving to a barefoot approach too quickly can be harmful to horses that have lived with shoes for a long time if their feet are not prepared. Conversely, the practice of soring in Tennessee is roundly denounced as abuse by different veterinarians and horse specialists.

Prohibited by the Horse Protection Act of , the practice consists of using a heavily weighted wedge to compress the front hooves, forcing the horse to move in an unnatural way.

Examining Canadian Equine Industry Participants’ Perceptions of Horses and Their Welfare

Branding is less common than in the past. In France and Germany, its main purpose is the marketing and promotion of animals. Using branding for identification or proof of ownership of lost or stolen animals became obsolete with the popularization of the electronic chip. Branding causes severe pain and may be seen as a cruel act, "suffering in the name of tradition and marketing". The red iron exposes skin to degree heat. The body part that was branded has lesions typical of a third-degree burn with necrotic flesh.

There are many interventions on the tail of the horse, mainly for aesthetic reasons the practical reasons having disappeared with large-scale use of horse-drawn carriages. According to Sandra Tozzini, these practices are ethically reprehensible, even "criminal", and cause suffering "without cause". Cutting the tailing or raising it artificially often causes the horse to have increased action in its paces. Docking is the most common intervention concerning the tail. Removal of the last vertebrae of the coccyx by cutting creates a shorter tail or a round stump.

Docking is done almost exclusively on draft horses and hitches. Unique to the Anglo-Saxon world, nickering is the sectioning of the tail muscles, which has the effect of raising the tail. The animal must wear a "tail set" device after the operation to complete the process of muscle atrophy. This device is unpleasant and prevents the horse from going outside. Tail blocking is done by injection of alcohol into the nerve that controls the movement of this appendage, preventing the horse from moving its tail. This practice is less invasive than previous ones and is used illegally for contests where the movement of the tail, an indicator of the horse's discomfort, is disqualifying.

Tail blocking can cause complications such as ataxia. The introduction of alcohol, spices or other irritants into the anus or vagina, called gingering, is used to force the horse to hold its tail higher and to give a more dashing impression. The breeding conditions of domestic horses differ significantly from the wild, whether in reproduction, the education of the foal, or the use of questionable practices and techniques.


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  • Hand breeding, a reproduction method that involves impairing a mare before presenting her to the stallion, is considered "organized rape". The lack of foreplay can panic the mare. Weaning the foal usually occurs much later in the wild than on the farm, where it is usually separated from its mother at the age of six month. Although the six-month-old foal has moved from mother's milk to a forage diet, this age of separation is considered too early to ensure the foal has learned enough from its mother.

    This can lead the foal to later develop stable defects or other problems. One way to avoid this is to wean foals in a group, and keep with the group one or more adult horses other than the mothers, so that the foals can continue to learn the social codes of their own species. Mare milk production also poses an ethical question, as the presence of the foal is necessary to ensure milk flow in the mare. Taking the milk means it will not be consumed by the colt, and results in a strong chance that the latter will be sold for slaughter as deficient.

    Some owners of young foals handle them excessively, leading the foal to consider the human a member of its own species, which can cause serious behavioural problems. Hobbles are used on some large farms to provide semi-freedom, preventing horses from going too far. In addition to forcing them to move in step, hobbles cause pain. The selection criteria for certain breeds cause the birth of horses that suffer because of their morphologies. This is the case with Quarter Horses and Halter Paint Horses, selected to have limbs as muscular as possible, which hurts the horse's feet and promotes the proliferation of genetic diseases of the muscles.

    Moreover, these horses are often given steroids and confined in small spaces, to preserve their excessive musculature.

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    Conditions for keeping horses have barely changed in developing countries. In the wild, these animals move 10 to 15 kilometres daily and spend most of their lives grazing on fresh grass. The horse is usually locked in stables, in a box or a stall, when not in use by humans. The size of the box is reduced 3 to 4 metres per side and 2.

    The Welfare of Horses

    The horse has very little room to move. This confining stable, often reinforced with grills, also deprives it of contact with its peers. Its food is often thrown on the floor, where it is sometimes forced to urinate and defecate. According to the definition of equine welfare advocated by INRA and the Farm Animal Welfare Council, because life in a box or stall prevents the horse from expressing its normal behaviour, it constitutes a form of abuse. Other specialists like Pierre Enoff who compares the boxed horse to a goldfish in a glass of water and Laetitia Bataille who compares the term "equine detention" to prison vocabulary also believe that the box format causes suffering.

    The damages caused by this prolonged life in a box or stall are at the root of stable vices. These behavioural problems of domestic horses often come from isolation and lack of exercise. Their expression can be varied. In the case where a horse is placed in a box or stall, Swiss law requires that the horse is allowed out for at least two hours each day.

    Animal welfare: horses, donkeys and hybrids | Agriculture and Food

    After all, these living conditions create aggression: the further removed from conditions in the wild, the more relationship problems among horses increase. Life in the paddock on the surface appears to allow the horse to move and graze freely; however, it is not an absolute guarantee of well-being. The horse remains dependent on humans for care. The case of a stray horse escaping from their paddock may result from external malice, but also from the poor consideration of needs lack of food, water freezing in the trough in winter, proximity of something frightening Straying is at the origin of many serious accidents, particularly collisions with vehicles.

    The design of the paddock also poses a risk to the horse because of hunting: cases of horses killed by stray bullets or deliberately slaughtered are regularly reported. The use of barbed wire is also a source of accidents. The horse must, in all cases, have a shelter to protect it from the elements and the wind. To better meet the horse's needs while facilitating its maintenance, the Germans created the concept of "active stabling", which is based on new technologies. The horses are housed in groups and automatically fed as they require, with unlimited access to rest and recreation areas.

    The transport of horses is by its nature contrary to the five freedoms because of the lack of available space and the lack of access to food and water. Studies also demonstrate a marked increase in horse stress during transport, particularly at the beginning. This stress decreases with experience, but remains present.

    Furthermore, the movement of the transport van forces the horse to regularly correct its position, which can cause it fatigue over time. The lack of water is a real problem, as hours sweat a lot during transport. Stops to allow the horse to drink are essential to its welfare, and access to hay is non-negotiable. Other questions arise with the way in which mankind puts the horse to work.

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    Well-conducted equestrianism is similar to sports training in that it allows the horse to gain flexibility and muscle. The wrong approach to riding, however, causes back pain because of the weight of the rider on the dorsal and thoracic vertebrae. Positioning the neck high and hollow where the rider keeps his hands high and holds the reins tight is particularly deleterious. However, certain breeds are better carriers than others, particularly the mixed breeds.

    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)
    The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare) The Welfare of Horses (Animal Welfare)

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