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

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2007;10(4):309-29. doi: 10.1080/10888700701555576.


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 stereotypies 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).

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Horses / psychology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Stereotyped Behavior*