A Study of Traveller Horse Owners’ Attitudes to Horse Care and Welfare Using an Equine Body Condition Scoring System
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
SRUC, Roslin Institute, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 February 2019 / Revised: 21 March 2019 / Accepted: 28 March 2019 / Published: 12 April 2019
Irish Travellers are an indigenous ethnic minority group. Horses are an important part of Travellers’ lives, with horse ownership considered one of the last links to their nomadic way of life. Travellers keep, breed, and sell horses. Trotting and sulky racing are popular recreational activities. Traveller horses are often viewed as having poor health and welfare by the equine industry and the media although there is little data to support these views. This study aimed to investigate Traveller horse owners’ attitudes to horse care and welfare by using in-depth interviews and body condition scoring, a well-known tool used to detect welfare related conditions, to investigate Travellers’ understanding of horse welfare. The ease of use and accuracy of the body condition scoring tool as applied by Traveller horse owners was assessed. Results indicate that they had a good understanding of a horse’s natural behaviour, which is reflected in their management practices. A major barrier to improved horse welfare cited was land availability. Travellers were found to be able to use the scoring tool easily although further training is recommended. This study provides us with an understanding of how Travellers’ manage their horses. Further research is recommended with a larger sample group.