How to provide and assess optimal welfare for horses? A literature review

Relatively little research has investigated the welfare or the quality of life of the domestic horse. Most knowledge is based on empirical findings rather than on scientific evidence (Minero & Canali, 2008). 
The aim of this presentation is to deepen our knowledge around welfare recommendations and assessment for horses through a recent literature review.

Thanks to the advances in understanding horse behavior and welfare, we can help to improve animal welfare and to decrease chronic stress. It’s important to help owners to improve their housing conditions towards a system where the basic needs of the horses are recognized with more social contacts, foraging opportunities and increased locomotion. Following factors should be considered as priorities in protecting horse welfare: housing and management conditions allowing social contacts, daily free movement, provision of enough roughage, correct application of the learning principles in training, particular attention to horse welfare during phases at risk as weaning or transport.

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Anouck Haverbeke

I qualified as a veterinarian from Ghent University (Belgium) in 2001, defending a thesis about the welfare of horses at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Subsequently I obtained a PhD in Ethology at the University of Namur (Belgium) in 2009. This PhD research improved the security, efficiency and welfare among the working dogs and their handlers at the Belgian Defence. This project has been perceived as the groundwork of forthcoming research, identifying significant improvements in the way working dogs should be raised and/or procured, trained and employed - not to mention their welfare and the human animal relationship.

After my PhD graduation, I created Vet Ethology, a veterinary and behavioural practice. Vet Ethology offers consultations for horses, dogs and cats to heal your pets’ medical and behavioural problems mostly through natural and positive methods. 

I am a European Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM-BM) since 2013 and member of different Veterinarian Associations in Ethology (ECAWBM, ESVCE, VDWE, SFEV).

I am teaching animal behaviour in collaboration with different institutions as Odisee University College (Belgium: Postgraduate Course of Applied Animal Behaviour; International Postgraduate Course in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare of Odisee University College; Dog Assisted Interactions) and École National Vétérinaire Alfort (France: Postgraduate Course in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine)... 

As an author of several peer-reviewed articles, I conduct ongoing research on Ethology and Human Animal Interactions. My actual research interest treats the influence of olfactory enrichment on emotions of humans and animals. I am a frequent lecturer in Belgium and abroad on the topic of Animal Behaviour and human-animal interactions. 

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For this video, the following documents are available :

  • Proceedings "How to provide and assess optimal welfare for horses?"
  • Abstract article "Group housing exerts a positive effect on the behaviour of young horses during training" E. Sondergaard and J. Ladewig, 2004

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