Activity Time Budgets—A Potential Tool to Monitor Equine Welfare?
Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Intensive Care Medicine Unit, Department of Companion Animals and Horses, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Veterinaerplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
Equine Surgery Unit, University Equine Hospital, Department of Companion Animals and Horses, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Veterinaerplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Andrew McLean
Received: 25 February 2021 / Revised: 14 March 2021 / Accepted: 15 March 2021 / Published: 17 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Equids
Horses’ behavior is a good indicator of their welfare status. However, its complexity requires objective, quantifiable, and unambiguous evidence-based assessment criteria. As healthy, stress-free horses exhibit a highly repetitive daily routine, horses’ time budget (amount of time in a 24 h period spent on specific activities) can assist in equine welfare assessment. A systematic review of the literature yielded 12 papers that assessed equine time budgets for eating, resting and movement for a minimum of 24 continuous hours. A total of 144 horses (1–27 years old), 59 semi-feral and 85 domesticated horses, are included in this review. The reported 24 h time budgets for eating ranged from 10% to 66.6%, for resting from 8.1% to 66%, for lying from 2.7% to 27.3%, and for movement from 0.015% to 19.1%. The large variance in time budgets between studies can largely be attributed to differences in age and environmental conditions. Management interventions (free access to food, increased space, decreased population density) in domesticated horses yielded time budgets similar to semi-feral horses. The data support the importance of environmental conditions for horses’ well-being and the ability of time budgets to assist in monitoring horses’ welfare.