The Influence of Human Behaviour and Cognition on Sustainable Equine Welfare and Horse–Human Interaction

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Equids".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2024 | Viewed by 19387

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Agriculture, Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, Postbus 9001, 6880 GB Velp, The Netherlands
Interests: human behaviour change; bias and decision making in equestrianism; horse–human interaction; equestrian sport psychology; sustainability in equestrian sports

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Guest Editor
The Horse Trust & Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Interests: equine behavioural medicine; learning theory; equitation science; horse–veterinarian interactions; horse–human interactions; welfare of ridden horses
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Equestrianism is on the cusp of change. The manner in which humans interact with, manage and train horses is being increasingly scrutinized by individuals and organizations both from outside the sector and from within. While the fields of equine and equitation science continue to advance our understanding of the welfare of horses and how this might be affected by human (inter)action, much of that knowledge has not yet been integrated into daily equestrian practice. In order to safeguard and improve equine welfare with a view to ensuring a sustainable equestrian future, we must gain a better understanding of human (equestrian) behaviour. Why do equestrians do what they do, and how can we produce sustainable behaviour change?

The aim of this Special Issue is to advance our understanding of equestrian behaviour and cognition with a view towards achieving sustainable equine welfare and harmonious horse–human interactions. We invite fellow scholars to share their original research or reviews. 

Prof. Dr. Inga A. Wolframm
Dr. Gemma Pearson
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • human behaviour change
  • equestrianism
  • equestrian psychology
  • sustainable equine welfare
  • horse–human interaction

Published Papers (7 papers)

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15 pages, 284 KiB  
Article
The Easiest Becomes the Rule: Beliefs, Knowledge and Attitudes of Equine Practitioners and Enthusiasts Regarding Horse Welfare
by Letícia Santos Maurício, Denise Pereira Leme and Maria José Hötzel
Animals 2024, 14(9), 1282; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14091282 - 24 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1406
Abstract
Inadequate management conditions can impair the welfare of captive-bred horses. Understanding individuals’ viewpoints and the factors influencing their decisions about adopting or avoiding certain practices may provide insights into their motivations and decision-making processes. This is particularly relevant in the equestrian community, where [...] Read more.
Inadequate management conditions can impair the welfare of captive-bred horses. Understanding individuals’ viewpoints and the factors influencing their decisions about adopting or avoiding certain practices may provide insights into their motivations and decision-making processes. This is particularly relevant in the equestrian community, where equine practitioners and enthusiasts often engage in harmful practices. We explored the beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes of equine practitioners and enthusiasts about horse welfare and the barriers that prevent them from employing better management practices that are essential to promoting horses’ welfare. The study consisted of in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted in person with 31 individuals directly involved in the equestrian environment in Brazil. Responses were analyzed through thematic analysis with a data-driven deductive approach. Participants’ beliefs, knowledge and attitudes to horse welfare were divided into three themes. The first theme, “Let the horse be a horse”, captured participants’ perceptions about how physical and mental aspects related to the nature and welfare of horses. The second theme, “Everyone does it like that”, includes the social norms that influence decisions about the practices that impact on the welfare of the horses. The third theme, “Beyond utopia: how and why horses are managed the way they are”, covered barriers that participants perceived as impediments to the use of best practices for the welfare of horses. While participants demonstrated awareness of welfare issues and acknowledged factors that negatively impact horses, there was a notable discrepancy between this knowledge and the implementation of improved management practices. This could be explained by several perceived barriers to implementing management practices that could enhance horse welfare, including lack of financial resources, limited physical space, shortage of qualified labor, time constraints, inadequate tools, and insufficient knowledge. Additionally, we identified deeply rooted social norms within the equestrian community and culturally established practices that limit approaches to horse welfare. Participants underscored the influence of these norms and different interpretations of “letting the horse be a horse” based on the horse’s value and purpose. Concerning low-value horses, the primary justifications for stall housing and concentrated feeding were linked to elevated costs involved in spatial demands and labor; in contrast, for high-value horses used in performance and aesthetics, the arguments shifted to potential benefits to the horses’ well-being. From an ethical perspective, ideally, individuals should refrain from owning horses if they cannot ensure the animals’ welfare. Additionally, if the equestrian community neglects public attitudes towards animal welfare, it risks eroding its social license. Full article
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20 pages, 1789 KiB  
Article
Pro-Environmental Transformation of the Equine Sector—Facilitators and Challenges
by Susanna Hedenborg, Mathilde Kronborg, Anna Sätre, Aage Radmann, Gabriella Torell Palmquist and Petra Andersson
Animals 2024, 14(6), 915; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14060915 - 16 Mar 2024
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Abstract
To improve horse welfare and ensure a sustainable equestrian future, we need to understand human behavior in relation to the challenges of the sector. The purpose of this paper is to map and analyze how individuals within the equine sector in Sweden and [...] Read more.
To improve horse welfare and ensure a sustainable equestrian future, we need to understand human behavior in relation to the challenges of the sector. The purpose of this paper is to map and analyze how individuals within the equine sector in Sweden and Norway define the environmental challenges they are faced with and how these are related to questions about horse welfare. A mixed-methods parallel design was used. The data consist of survey answers and semi-structured interviews. The survey, responded to by 697 Swedish and Norwegian participants, ensured statistical validity and power through a sample size calculation yielding approximately 385 participants. To deepen the understanding, 36 semi structured interviews with Swedish and Norwegian interviewees were conducted. An analysis of convergencies and divergencies between the data sets provided robust insights into the perceptions and behaviors within the equine sector in Sweden and Norway. The findings show that the equine sector has cultivated a stronger environmental commitment over the last 15 years (Svala, 2008). However, many participants express a perceived lack of influence on this transformation. The COM-B model (Michie, Van Stralen & West, 2011; Michie, Atkins & West, 2014) and previous research on ‘thinking structures on climate delay’ (Wormbs & Wolrath, 2023) are used to interpret the data. The analysis indicates that there is an overall capacity for change, and that skills and knowledge exist, but some individuals desire more information and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand. Higher barriers to change were found in the opportunity component, where physical constraints such as location, resources, and time seem challenging for individual actors to influence. Economic factors are also identified as impediments to transformation. Cultural norms related to orderliness within stables, although not directly addressing ecological nor ethical challenges, might serve as a foundation for promoting environmental initiatives that will also improve horse welfare. Full article
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20 pages, 806 KiB  
Article
An Exploratory Study into the Backgrounds and Perspectives of Equine-Assisted Service Practitioners
by Rita Seery and Deborah Wells
Animals 2024, 14(2), 347; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14020347 - 22 Jan 2024
Viewed by 4072
Abstract
Equine-Assisted Services (EASs) are commonplace in today’s society, but vary widely in both theoretical and practical applications. Until now, practitioners’ experiences and perspectives in relation to these services have received little attention. To address this, a purpose-designed online questionnaire was distributed to EAS [...] Read more.
Equine-Assisted Services (EASs) are commonplace in today’s society, but vary widely in both theoretical and practical applications. Until now, practitioners’ experiences and perspectives in relation to these services have received little attention. To address this, a purpose-designed online questionnaire was distributed to EAS practitioners, exploring issues relating to the nature of the service provided, practice patterns, practitioner education, perceived knowledge, challenges faced and the future direction of these services. An analysis revealed a significant association between practitioners’ backgrounds and the nature of the service offered, as well as perceived knowledge. Median EAS training received to first practice was 20 days of block release over a year; however, nearly half of the sample (42.4%) reported less training than this. Equine-specific training was more limited, with 41.5% of practitioners having no horse-relevant qualifications. The most important challenges reported by practitioners involved client and equine welfare, financial sustainability and raising awareness of EAS. This research highlights the diverse nature of EAS and also raises important challenges and possible opportunities for development. Findings suggest that more progress is needed to professionalise and legitimise the area to support and help practitioners provide the best service for all concerned. Full article
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16 pages, 2093 KiB  
Article
Socio-Technical Analysis of the Benefits and Barriers to Using a Digital Representation of the Global Horse Population in Equine Veterinary Medicine
by Tomas Rudolf Sterkenburgh, Javier Villalba-Diez and Joaquín Ordieres-Meré
Animals 2023, 13(22), 3557; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13223557 - 17 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 956
Abstract
There is a consensus that future medicine will benefit from a comprehensive analysis of harmonized, interconnected, and interoperable health data. These data can originate from a variety of sources. In particular, data from veterinary diagnostics and the monitoring of health-related life parameters using [...] Read more.
There is a consensus that future medicine will benefit from a comprehensive analysis of harmonized, interconnected, and interoperable health data. These data can originate from a variety of sources. In particular, data from veterinary diagnostics and the monitoring of health-related life parameters using the Internet of Medical Things are considered here. To foster the usage of collected data in this way, not only do technical aspects need to be addressed but so do organizational ones, and to this end, a socio-technical matrix is first presented that complements the literature. It is used in an exemplary analysis of the system. Such a socio-technical matrix is an interesting tool for analyzing the process of data sharing between actors in the system dependent on their social relations. With the help of such a socio-technical tool and using equine veterinary medicine as an example, the social system of veterinarians and owners as actors is explored in terms of barriers and enablers of an effective digital representation of the global equine population. Full article
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30 pages, 1129 KiB  
Article
A Delphi Study to Determine International and National Equestrian Expert Opinions on Domains and Sub-Domains Essential to Managing Sporthorse Health and Welfare in the Olympic Disciplines
by Jane M. Williams, Lise C. Berg, Hilary M. Clayton, Katharina Kirsch, David Marlin, Hayley Randle, Lars Roepstroff, Marianne Sloet van Oldruitenborgh-Oosterbaan, Michael A. Weishaupt and Carolien Munsters
Animals 2023, 13(21), 3404; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13213404 - 2 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3031
Abstract
The public is increasingly questioning equestrianism’s social license to operate. While the focus historically centered on horseracing, increased scrutiny is now being placed on how dressage, showjumping, and eventing are addressing equine management and welfare concerns. Nominated equestrian federation and equestrian organization experts [...] Read more.
The public is increasingly questioning equestrianism’s social license to operate. While the focus historically centered on horseracing, increased scrutiny is now being placed on how dressage, showjumping, and eventing are addressing equine management and welfare concerns. Nominated equestrian federation and equestrian organization experts (n = 104) directly involved in international and/or national-level horse sports took part in a four-stage, iterative Delphi to obtain consensus on what factors should be considered essential to manage sporthorse health and welfare. Five core domains were agreed as essential: training management, competition management, young horse management, health status and veterinary management, and the horse–human relationship. Two further domains: stable and environmental management, and welfare assessment were rated as important but not essential, as most respondents felt that these areas were already managed well. Participants felt increased education and guidance combined with further policy development and regulation are needed to support stakeholders to optimize sporthorse management. An appetite to engage with research to generate evidence that promotes sporthorse welfare was evident. The development of a sporthorse welfare charter and evidence-based guidelines to inform the management and monitoring of sporthorses’ health and welfare are recommended to provide horses with a good life and to safeguard the future of equestrian sports. Full article
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23 pages, 1191 KiB  
Article
Investigating the Market Value of Brumbies (Equus caballus) in the Australian Riding Horse Market
by Victoria Condon, Bethany Wilson, Peter J. S. Fleming, Brooke P. A. Kennedy, Tamara Keeley, Jamie Barwick and Paul McGreevy
Animals 2023, 13(9), 1481; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13091481 - 27 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1939
Abstract
Feral horses, also known as brumbies, are widely distributed across Australia with some populations being managed largely by human intervention. Rehoming of suitable feral horses following passive trapping has wide community acceptance as a management tool. However, there is little information about the [...] Read more.
Feral horses, also known as brumbies, are widely distributed across Australia with some populations being managed largely by human intervention. Rehoming of suitable feral horses following passive trapping has wide community acceptance as a management tool. However, there is little information about the number and relative economic value of feral horses compared with cohorts in the riding horse market. We examined 15,404 advertisements of horses for sale in 53 editions of Horse Deals, published from February 2017 to July 2022. Despite the considerable media attention and public scrutiny surrounding feral horse management, rehomed feral horses represented only a tiny fraction of the horse market in the current study. Of the 15,404 advertisements examined, only 128 (0.0083%) were for feral horses. We recorded phrases used to describe behavioural characteristics and other variables. The following variables were found to be not independent: Ridden Status, Height, Age, Sex, Colour, and Warning terms/more work. Using descriptive statistics to describe basic features of the data, the average price for feral horses ($1408) was lower than that for domestic horses ($1790) with the maximum price for a domestic horse being nearly twice the maximum for a feral horse. Univariate analysis showed feral horses were over-represented among “Unbroken” horses and underrepresented among “Ridden”, “Broodmare” and “Harness” horses compared with domestic bred horses (p < 0.001). Feral horses appeared over-represented at shorter heights, among younger age groups (3 years or younger and 3.1 to 6 years) (p < 0.001) and in the dilute colour category (p = 0.008). The multivariable mixed model on price revealed that for domestic horses, the highest estimated marginal mean price averaged across the colour categories was for ridden horses aged 6.1–10-year-old at $1657.04 (95% CI $1320.56–$2074.66). In contrast, for feral horses, the multivariable mixed model demonstrated the similar highest estimated marginal mean averaged was for green broken 3–6-year-old horses that have undergone foundation training under saddle at $2526.97 (95% CI $1505.63–$4208.27). Australian feral horses were valued differently tfromsimilar domestic horses in the recreational riding horse market and further research is warranted to determine appropriate target markets and boost the sustainability of rehoming as a feral horse management tool. Full article
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15 pages, 1368 KiB  
Commentary
Used like Pawns or Treated like Kings? How Narratives around Racehorse Welfare in the 2023 Grand National May Affect Public Acceptance: An Informed Commentary
by Gemma Pearson, Janet Douglas, Inga Wolframm and Tamzin Furtado
Animals 2023, 13(19), 3137; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani13193137 - 8 Oct 2023
Viewed by 5237
Abstract
The 2023 Grand National steeplechase race was delayed when protesters from the animal rights group, ‘Animal Rising’, gained access to the course just prior to the race. The international media spotlight was focused on what is already a high-profile event and the social [...] Read more.
The 2023 Grand National steeplechase race was delayed when protesters from the animal rights group, ‘Animal Rising’, gained access to the course just prior to the race. The international media spotlight was focused on what is already a high-profile event and the social licence of both this race and racing in general was scrutinised. Both at the time and for several days afterwards, the general public was exposed to two different narratives from pro- and anti-racing communities. This paper discusses these perspectives and the potential impact on the general public’s relationship with racing. Whilst well-meaning and aiming to promote racing, much of the racing industry’s commentary inadvertently risked damaging its reputation due to a poor understanding of social licence principles. We explore the reasons for these two groups’ alternative perspectives on welfare and suggest considerations for change. Ultimately, if ‘the people’s race’ is to maintain its social licence, the racing community needs to both understand and embrace the concept. Welcoming independent opinions, engaging with different viewpoints, accepting that change is inevitable and, most importantly, being proactive in making changes to prioritise equine welfare will all help racing to move towards greater public acceptance. Full article
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