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Animals 2019, 9(3), 81; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030081

Welfare Quality of Breeding Horses Under Different Housing Conditions

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, 400372 Cluj-Napoca, Romania
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Received: 7 February 2019 / Revised: 24 February 2019 / Accepted: 28 February 2019 / Published: 5 March 2019
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Simple Summary

Depending on their use, horses are exposed to specific welfare risks. The aim of this study was to gain an insight into the welfare of breeding mares and stallions, in different types of housing, a topic which little has been written on. The assessed breeding horses were included in one of four welfare categories on the basis of a numerical welfare score calculated by the assessment of 30 management and animal-related indicators (health and behavior). The study also evidences the deficiencies and negative effects on horses’ welfare from the tie-stalls system, which is still used in some countries. This housing type is linked to increased risks of respiratory and locomotive problems, which have a significantly higher prevalence in the tie-stalled stallions than in mostly freely kept mares. The overall welfare categories recorded showed better welfare in the mares (“enhanced” and “excellent”) than in the stallions (“acceptable” and “enhanced”). Accordingly, it can be concluded that positive changes in housing management, such as free housing with the use of boxes, could improve the welfare quality of breeding stallions.

Abstract

This paper investigates the effect of different housing conditions on the welfare quality of breeding horses. Using a welfare protocol that included health and behavioral parameters, 330 stallions (kept in tie-stall housing) and 365 broodmares (kept in extensive, mostly free housing) were assessed. The horses were categorized into four welfare categories (“not classified”, “acceptable”, “enhanced” and “excellent”), according to an individual welfare score calculated for each horse. The prevalence of stallions with dyspnea, tendon and joint swellings, abnormal gait and abnormal hoof horn quality was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than that of the broodmares. No significant difference (p > 0.05) was found in the human-related behavioral response of the two categories of breeding horses. The median individual welfare scores were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the broodmares than in the breeding stallions. The mares had “enhanced” and “excellent” welfare, while the stallions had “acceptable” and “enhanced” welfare. The results revealed differences in the horses’ welfare quality for the different housing conditions. Accordingly, it can be concluded that positive changes in housing management, such as free housing with the use of boxes, could improve the welfare quality of breeding stallions. View Full-Text
Keywords: Brood mares; breeding stallions; horse health; horse behavior; welfare score Brood mares; breeding stallions; horse health; horse behavior; welfare score
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MDPI and ACS Style

Popescu, S.; Lazar, E.A.; Borda, C.; Niculae, M.; Sandru, C.D.; Spinu, M. Welfare Quality of Breeding Horses Under Different Housing Conditions. Animals 2019, 9, 81.

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