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Observer reliability for working equine welfare assessment: problems with high prevalences of certain results

By C. C. Burn, J. C. Pritchard, H. R. Whay

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Welfare issues relevant to equids working in developing countries may differ greatly to those of sport and companion equids in developed countries. In this study, we test the observer reliability of a working equine welfare assessment, demonstrating how prevalence of certain observations reduces reliability ratings. The assessment included behaviour, general health, wounds, and limb and foot pathologies. In Study 1, agreement between five observers and their trainer (the 'gold standard') was assessed using 80 horses and 80 donkeys in India. Intra-observer agreement was later tested on 40 of each species. Study 2 took place in Egypt, using nine observers, their trainer, 30 horses and 30 donkeys, adjusting some scoring systems and providing observers with more detailed guidelines than in Study 1. Percentage agreements, Fleiss kappa (with a weighted version for ordinal scores) and prevalence indices were calculated for each variable. Reliability was similar across both studies, but was significantly poorer for donkeys than horses. Age, sex, certain wounds and (for horses alone) body condition, consistently attained clinically-useful reliability. Hoof-horn quality, point-of-hock lesions, mucous membrane abnormalities, limb-tether lesions, and skin tenting showed poor reliability. Reporting the prevalence index alongside the percentage agreement showed that, for many variables, the populations were too homogenous for conclusive reliability ratings. Suggestions are made for improving scoring systems showing poor reliability, but future testing will require deliberate selection of a more diverse equine population. This could prove challenging given that, in both populations of horses and donkeys studied here, many pathologies apparently showed 90-100% prevalence.

Date 2009
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 18
Issue 2
Pages 177-187
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abnormal development
  2. Africa
  3. Animal diseases
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Asia
  7. Body condition
  8. Commonwealth of Nations
  9. Countries
  10. Developed countries
  11. Donkeys
  12. Egypt
  13. Feet
  14. Guidelines
  15. Health
  16. Horses
  17. Incidence
  18. India
  19. Lesions
  20. Mammals
  21. Mediterranean region
  22. Methodologies
  23. Methods
  24. Middle East
  25. mucus
  26. Parasites
  27. recommendations
  28. Research
  29. scoring systems
  30. Sports
  31. Studies
  32. Techniques
  33. Third World
  34. Underdeveloped Countries
  35. Wounds and injuries