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Don't fence me in: managing psychological well being for elite performance horses

By A. J. Z. Henderson

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This article posits that stereotypical behavior patterns and the overall psychological well being of today's performance horse could be substantially enhanced with care that acknowledges the relationship between domesticated horses and their forerunners. Feral horses typically roam in stable, social groups over large grazing territories, spending 16-20 hr per day foraging on mid-to poor-quality roughage. In contrast, today's elite show horses live in relatively small stalls, eat a limited - but rich - diet at specific feedings, and typically live in social isolation. Although the horse has been domesticated for more than 6000 years, there has been no selection for an equid who no longer requires an outlet for these natural behaviors. Using equine stereotypes as a welfare indicator, this researcher proposes that the psychological well being of today's performance horse is compromised. Furthermore, the article illustrates how minimal management changes can enhance horses' well being while still remaining compatible with the requirements of the sport-horse industry. The article discusses conclusions in terms of Fraser, Weary, Pajor, and Milligan's "integrative welfare model" (1997).

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 10
Issue 4
Pages 309-329
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888700701555576
Language English
Author Address Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, 12 North Delta Avenue, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5B 1E6,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Horses
  7. Mammals
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. Psychiatry and psychology
  10. psychological well-being
  11. racehorses
  12. show jumping
  13. Sport animals
  14. stalls
  15. ungulates
  16. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed