Animal welfare is defined as a chronic state reflecting an individual’s subjective perception of its situation. Because it is possible to be in a good welfare state and nevertheless experience acute fear or pain, and conversely, short-term positive emotions can be experienced during impaired welfare states, welfare as a chronic state has to be clearly distinguished from temporary states related to emotions, pain or stress. The evaluation of non-verbal individuals’ welfare state, particularly in interspecific situations, is a real challenge that necessarily implies animal-based measures and requires multidisciplinary scientifically validated measures. In the last decade, studies investigating horses’ welfare flourished together with new measures that were not always scientifically tested before being used. At a time were legal decisions are made on animal welfare, it is crucial to rely on reliable welfare indicators in order to prevent false evaluation. The aim of this review is to identify the scientifically tested and reliable indicators of horses’ welfare (e.g., body lesions, apathy, aggressiveness, stereotypic behaviours) from signals of temporary states related to acute pain emotions or stress and from popular beliefs, in order to give the scientific community and the horse industry accurate evaluation tools.
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