Despite growing concerns about the welfare of horses in Great Britain (GB) there has been little surveillance of the welfare status of the horse population. Consequently we have limited knowledge of the range of welfare problems experienced by horses in GB and the situations in which poor welfare occurs. Thirty-one in-depth interviews were conducted with a cross -section of equine stakeholders, in order to explore their perceptions of the welfare problems faced by horses in GB. Welfare problems relating to health, management and riding and training were identified, including horses being under or over weight, stabling 24 hours a day and the inappropriate use of training aids. The interviewees also discussed broader contexts in which they perceived that welfare was compromised. The most commonly discussed context was where horses are kept in unsuitable environments, for example environments with poor grazing. The racing industry and travellers horses were identified as areas of the industry where horse welfare was particularly vulnerable to compromise. Lack of knowledge and financial constraints were perceived to be the root cause of poor welfare by many interviewees. The findings give insight into the range of welfare problems that may be faced by horses in GB, the contexts in which these may occur and their possible causes. Many of the problems identified by the interviewees have undergone limited scientific investigation pointing to areas where further research is likely to be necessary for welfare improvement. The large number of issues identified suggests that some form of prioritisation may be necessary to target research and resources effectively.
Horseman, S. V., Buller, H., Mullan, S., & Whay, H. R. (2016). Current welfare problems facing horses in Great Britain as identified by equine stakeholders. PLoS ONE, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160269