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Review

Basic Needs in Horses?—A Literature Review

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Department of Equine Economics, Faculty of Agriculture, Economics and Management, Nuertingen-Geislingen University, Neckarsteige 6-10, 72622 Nürtingen, Germany
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Zoology/Evolutionary Biology, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstraße 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany
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Department of Animal Welfare, Ethology, Animal Hygiene and Animal Husbandry, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Veterinarian Medicine, Veterinaerstr. 13/R, 80539 Munich, Germany
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Centre for Social Learning & Cognitive Evolution, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland KY16 9JPh, UK
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Behavioural Physiology of Farm Animals, University of Hohenheim, Garbenstr. 17, 70599 Hohenheim, Germany
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Lisette M.C. Leliveld and Sandra Düpjan
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1798; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061798
Received: 29 April 2021 / Revised: 11 June 2021 / Accepted: 14 June 2021 / Published: 16 June 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Processing of environmental stimuli and farm animal welfare)
All animals have requirements that are essential for their welfare, and when these basic needs are not met, the animal suffers. In horses, it is claimed that these needs include social contact, social companionship, free movement and access to roughage in the form of grass, hay and/or straw. To validate this claim, this review examines 38 studies that reported on horses’ responses when one or more of these factors are restricted. We categorised the type of responses investigated: (a) Stress (e.g., increased stress hormones), (b) Active (e.g., increased aggression), (c) Passive (e.g., depressive-like behaviour) and (d) Abnormal Behaviour (e.g., stereotypies), and analysed the frequencies with which the investigated responses were shown. Overall, the studies reported that horses did react to restrictions in the described basic needs, especially to combinations of restricted social contact, free movement and access to roughage. The observation of passive responses and the development of abnormal behaviour provided compelling evidence that horses were suffering under these restrictions, and existing abnormal behaviours indicated that they had suffered at some time in the past. We conclude that the literature supports the claim that social contact, free movement and access to roughage are basic needs in horses and need to be taken into consideration to ensure their mental and physical welfare in management and training.
Every animal species has particular environmental requirements that are essential for its welfare, and when these so-called “basic needs” are not fulfilled, the animals suffer. The basic needs of horses have been claimed to be social contact, social companionship, free movement and access to roughage. To assess whether horses suffer when one or more of the four proposed basic needs are restricted, we examined several studies (n = 38) that reported behavioural and physiological reactions to these restrictions. We assigned the studies according to the four types of responses investigated: (a) Stress, (b) Active, (c) Passive, and (d) Abnormal Behaviour. Furthermore, the number of studies indicating that horses reacted to the restrictions were compared with the number of studies reporting no reaction. The limited number of studies available on single management restrictions did not allow conclusions to be drawn on the effect of each restriction separately, especially in the case of social companionship. However, when combinations of social contact, free movement and access to roughage were restricted, many of the horses had developed responses consistent with suffering. Passive Responses, indicating acute suffering, and Abnormal Behaviour, indicating suffering currently or at some time in the past, were especially clearly demonstrated. This provides further evidence of the usefulness of assessing behavioural parameters in combination with physiological measurements when evaluating horse welfare. This meta-analysis of the literature confirms that it is justified to claim that social contact, free movement and access to roughage are basic needs in horses. View Full-Text
Keywords: abnormal behaviour; active responses; horse; movement; passive responses; roughage; stress; social contact abnormal behaviour; active responses; horse; movement; passive responses; roughage; stress; social contact
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MDPI and ACS Style

Krueger, K.; Esch, L.; Farmer, K.; Marr, I. Basic Needs in Horses?—A Literature Review. Animals 2021, 11, 1798. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061798

AMA Style

Krueger K, Esch L, Farmer K, Marr I. Basic Needs in Horses?—A Literature Review. Animals. 2021; 11(6):1798. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061798

Chicago/Turabian Style

Krueger, Konstanze, Laureen Esch, Kate Farmer, and Isabell Marr. 2021. "Basic Needs in Horses?—A Literature Review" Animals 11, no. 6: 1798. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061798

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