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

Vet Sci. 2017 Sep 8;4(3):44. doi: 10.3390/vetsci4030044.


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.

Keywords: equine assisted interventions; horse welfare; stress assessment.

Publication types

  • Review