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Animals 2017, 7(8), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani7080056

Welfare Status of Working Horses and Owners′ Perceptions of Their Animals

1
Programa Doctorado en Ciencias Silvoagropecuarias y Veterinarias, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa 11315, La Pintana, Santiago 8820000, Chile
2
Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Las Palmeras 3425, Ñuñoa, Santiago 7800003, Chile
3
Departamento de Ingenieria Industrial, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas y Matemáticas, Universidad de Chile, Beauchef 851, Santiago 8370456, Chile
4
Departamento de Fomento de la Producción Animal, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias y Pecuarias, Universidad de Chile, Santa Rosa 11735, La Pintana, Santiago 8820000, Chile
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 June 2017 / Revised: 27 July 2017 / Accepted: 27 July 2017 / Published: 1 August 2017
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Simple Summary

Appropriate strategies aimed at improving the welfare of working horses should contemplate the assessment of welfare status, as well as the evaluation of the human–animal relationship within each geo-cultural context. We assessed and compared the welfare status of working horses in two administrative regions of Chile and explored the nature of the owner–horse relationship from the perspective of the owner. The overall prevalence of health problems and negative behavior responses was low. However, significant differences between regions exist in the presence of lesions and the person responsible for managing horseshoeing. Two differing views were found regarding the owners’ perception of their horse: predominantly affective or instrumental. Despite the instrumental perception predominantly residing in one region, the affective perception was widely shared by owners in each region. The findings suggest that Chilean working horses have a, generally, good welfare and that the development of an affective owner–horse relationship is possible. Additionally, the results suggest that affective and instrumental perceptions of these animals can coexist.

Abstract

Appropriate interventions to improve working equine welfare should be proposed according to scientific evidence that arises from different geo-cultural contexts. This study aims to assess and compare the welfare status of working horses in two administrative regions of Chile and to determine how owners perceive their horses. Horses’ welfare status was assessed through direct indicators (direct observation and clinical examination) and indirect indicators (an interview with the owner). Owners′ perceptions of their horses were determined through a discourse analysis of their statements. In total, 100 horses and 100 owners were assessed. Results showed a low prevalence of health problems and negative behavior responses among horses in the two regions evaluated. Significant associations were found between inadequate body condition and the absence of deworming, and between hoof abnormalities and a low frequency of shoeing. Between regions, significant differences were found in the presence of lesions and the person responsible for horseshoeing. In regards to the owners′ appreciations, two differing perceptions of working horses were found: a predominantly affective perception and a perception of the animal as a working instrument. Although the instrumental perception was more frequent in the Araucania region, the affective perception was widely shared by both owner populations. The results reveal a good welfare status in working horses and suggest that both affective and instrumental perceptions of these animals can coexist. View Full-Text
Keywords: equine welfare; working horses; urban draught horses; semantic analysis; human-animal relationship equine welfare; working horses; urban draught horses; semantic analysis; human-animal relationship
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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MDPI and ACS Style

Luna, D.; Vásquez, R.A.; Rojas, M.; Tadich, T.A. Welfare Status of Working Horses and Owners′ Perceptions of Their Animals. Animals 2017, 7, 56.

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