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Open AccessReview

Equine Assisted Interventions (EAIs): Methodological Considerations for Stress Assessment in Horses

Italian National Reference Centre for Animal Assisted Interventions, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, 00161 Rome, Italy
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Milan, 20133 Milan, Italy
Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
Department of Veterinary Science, University of Turin, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Patrick Butaye
Vet. Sci. 2017, 4(3), 44;
Received: 28 July 2017 / Revised: 30 August 2017 / Accepted: 5 September 2017 / Published: 8 September 2017
PDF [272 KB, uploaded 8 September 2017]


Equine assisted interventions (EAIs) are recently facing an increasing popularity, and are characterized by a wide diversity of practices. However, information on the welfare of animals involved in this kind of activity is often lacking. Horses are highly susceptible to work stressors related to physical constraints and/or to the need to control emotions while interacting with humans. Considerations of the emotional state of horses involved in EAIs have multiple valences: for the safety of humans and animals involved, for the quality and efficacy of interventions, as well as for ethical reasons. The aim of this unsystematic narrative review is to summarize the different approaches used for the evaluation of horses’ stress responses, investigate their application in the context of EAIs, and discuss some methodological considerations for researchers and practitioners involved in EAI. The sources of information are mostly based on electronic databases (i.e., Medline, Scopus and Google scholar), as well as on hand searches of the references of retrieved literature, and discussions with experts in the field. At present, a few studies have investigated horses’ stress responses during EAIs, and further studies are recommended, with the final aim to derive a reliable multidimensional method for assessing a horse’s reaction during therapeutic programs, ultimately helping professionals to better develop interventions by taking into consideration the animal’s perspective. View Full-Text
Keywords: equine assisted interventions; stress assessment; horse welfare equine assisted interventions; stress assessment; horse welfare
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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De Santis, M.; Contalbrigo, L.; Borgi, M.; Cirulli, F.; Luzi, F.; Redaelli, V.; Stefani, A.; Toson, M.; Odore, R.; Vercelli, C.; Valle, E.; Farina, L. Equine Assisted Interventions (EAIs): Methodological Considerations for Stress Assessment in Horses. Vet. Sci. 2017, 4, 44.

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