Survey on Horse Welfare in Canada reveals a few surprises

Canadian Mare and Foal. By Patty Wilding.
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HORSE CANADA | by AMY HARRIS

How would equine industry members describe the welfare status of Canadian horses? Which horses do they believe are the most at risk? And what do they believe threatens horse welfare? These are just some of the questions a research team at the University of Guelph set out to answer. In 2015, Master’s student, Lindsay Nakonechny, with the support of supervisor Dr. Katrina Merkies and PhD student Cordelie DuBois, created a survey to find out what adult members of the Canadian equine industry think about horse welfare. The online survey results revealed that participants largely agree on some of the top perceived threats to horse welfare, but also uncovered a few surprises.

Almost one hundred percent of survey participants agreed that there were welfare issues in the Canadian equine industry, citing unwanted horses, inappropriate training methods, and unknowledgable owners as some of the key issues within the industry. The majority of participants also highlighted ineffective legislation and the incapacity of law enforcement to protect horses as important.

When examining which groups of horses were perceived to be “at risk”, however, opinions were much more divided. Welfare issues connected to auctions or feedlot horses were less divided. Horses intended for slaughter and horses with owners who lack knowledge, were also suggested as affected groups by survey participants.

Lack of knowledge continued to emerge as a re-occurring survey theme. This, along with financial difficulties was considered one of the biggest challenges to “good” equine welfare. This supports the need for educational programs and targeted knowledge transfer. Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph could not agree more. “What this survey tells us is there is a need to work together with strong support from the industry to extend the reach of welfare education,” says Ecker. “Improved information outreach to the industry incorporating human behaviour change approaches are vital if we are to have an impact on improving equine welfare.”

Close to 1,000 participants from multiple disciplines across Canada took the survey and self-identified as at least somewhat knowledgeable regarding horse care. Of the five options regarding horse care knowledge, participants were most familiar with body condition scoring (BCS; 78.6%,). Surprisingly, under 55% were aware of the national document: the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (NFACC). Participants were even less familiar with the American Association of Equine Practitioners Lameness Scale (35.6%), the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare (29.7%), and Equitation Science (20.4%).

Alongside examining the participants’ views on equine welfare within the industry, researchers also examined what factors, such as a person’s gender or view on their horse’s ability to feel emotions, most often affected their answers. Researchers found that whether a person considered their horse to be livestock or a companion animal, as well as what discipline they were involved in, most often influenced their perception of welfare issues. People who considered horses livestock, for example, were less likely to believe that horses at auction or on feedlots were an “at risk” group.

Additionally, eight scenarios were included in the survey, each outlining a scenario in which horse welfare could be compromised. Those ranked the most welfare-compromising involved horses being pastured without water during the wintertime and a horse given a sedative prior to training. While participants of this survey almost unanimously indicated that they believed horses could feel a variety of emotional states, this belief was not always reflected in their ranking of the scenarios.

Several scenarios described situations in which horses could be suffering the effects of boredom or frustration (e.g. a horse on extended stall rest), but these scenarios were not considered as welfare-compromising as others. The intersection between what individuals think horses are capable of feeling and how this translates into practice (i.e. what situations cause horses to feel emotions such as boredom or pain) is an interesting one, and a challenge to all educators looking to bridge the gap between “knowing” and “understanding.”

To learn more about the survey questions, the diversity of the survey participant’s answers, and how they related to their involvement in the equine industry, read the full publication here.


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Featured Image: “Rare Canadian Horses at home in the Valley”, by Patty Wilding. March 4, 2020.

More fairy stories from Calif Horse Racing Board

Mongolian Groom. Sports Illustrated image.

No illegal medications or procedures were uncovered, mirroring an independent report of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing”.


What? These people are (fill in the blank) unbelievable. Read on (if you have the stomach for it).

The Paulick Report tell us:

Open Quote

The California Horse Racing Board has issued its report on the 23 fatalities that occurred during the Santa Anita race meet between Dec. 26, 2018 and March 31, 2019. The report was compiled by veterinarians and scientists, CHRB investigators, safety stewards and CHRB staff.

The report examined in depth each of the fatalities, published key findings and recommendations in various areas, including track maintenance; management of the racing office; training practices; private veterinary practitioners and practices; horse safety and welfare; regulatory veterinary procedures and practices; and at the CHRB level.

No illegal medications or procedures were uncovered, mirroring an independent report of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing.

The report found that 21 of the 22 catastrophic  musculoskeletal injuries examined in post-mortem necropsies were in horses showing evidence of pre-existing pathology “presumed to be associated with high exercise intensity, which predisposed these horses to catastrophic injury.”

Read it all at https://www.paulickreport.com/news/the-biz/chrb-issues-report-on-2018-19-santa-anita-fatalities/ »


California horse racing has to go. The Governor et al have left the building. But we haven’t. Bring on the Referendum. Or better yet — the Feds. That way these cheating, abusive criminals won’t simply walk away; they will go to jail. They are so arrogant they obviously feel they are somehow immune, and can’t be “taken down”.*

Featured Image: Mongolian Groom. We Remember You.


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* UPDATE: We see in a Blood-Horse article that, “The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream Park West and the Palm Meadows Training Center, said it complied fully with search warrants that were executed by federal authorities Monday morning at those facilities”. Doesn’t matter. This is only the beginning.

We HATE HATE HATE that Maximum Security (above) has gone to Bob Baffert’s barn. This horse cannot catch a break.

Related Reading

The Sting that is so stinging to U.S. horse racing, Tuesday’s Horse, 11 March 2020.

NYT: More than 2 dozen charged in horse racing doping scheme, Tuesday’s Horse, 9 March 2020.

Back in the blogging saddle again soon

Hello there. It has been a wild and crazy month. We have been so busy since the beginning of the year we have hardly had time to catch our breath let alone blog.

We even put Patsy our vegan bloggist on assignment so that’s why you haven’t heard anything from her. But she’s been saving up some goodies for you.

We have so much to share but we will not bombard you with it all at once. Just a bit at a time.

Hope you have had a good start to the year. Thank you for staying with us.

The Horse Fund Family

P.S. We aren’t on Instagram. Do you want us on Instagram? We’ll jump on it if you do. Let us know in comments or email us at horsefund@gmail.com.

Wishing you the very best for 2019

Horse by Bob Langrish with permission. Fireworks and Horse by Vivian Grant Farrell. Not to be printed or reproduced by request of the photographer.
Horse by Bob Langrish with permission. Fireworks and Horse artwork by Vivian Grant Farrell. Not to be printed or reproduced by request of the photographer.

Greetings!

We wish you the very best for the new year ahead and so grateful to you for staying with us and taking part.

Over the next week we will be posting a year in review on each of the core issues we confront regarding the safety and welfare of horses.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and ideas so please continue to share them with us.

Your help and support is extremely valuable to the horses we love.

Warm regards,

The Horse Fund and the Tuesday’s Horse blog.