26/ JUNE 2020 THE RIDER Talking Horse Welfare in Canada: How Do We See Our Industry?

Guelph, ON - May 27, 2020 - 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 threat- ens horse welfare? These are just some of the ques- tions a research team at the University of Guelph set out to answer. In 2015, Master’s student, Lind- say 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 re- vealed 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 par-

ticipants agreed that there were welfare issues in the Canadian equine industry, citing unwanted horses, inappropriate training methods, and un- knowledgeable owners as some of the key issues within the industry. The majority of participants

also highlighted ineffective legislation and the in- capacity 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 own- ers 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 finan- cial 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. “Im- proved information outreach to the industry incor-

porating human behaviour change approaches are vital if we are to have an impact on improving equine welfare.” Close to 1,000 participants from multiple dis-

ciplines 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 fa- miliar 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). Partici- pants were even less familiar with the American Association of Equine Practitioners Lameness Scale (35.6%), the Five Freedoms of Animal Wel- fare (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 gen- der 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. Peo- ple 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 sce- narios. Several scenarios described situations in which horses could be suffering the effects of bore- dom 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

Whispering Hearts

is a non-profit organization that relies on public support and donations.

Our mandate is to provide care and

rehabilitation to abused and neglected horses. We assist community members that can no longer care for their horses in an

attempt to prevent innocent animals being subjected to auctions and slaughter.

Visit our website to see how you can help!

Hagersville, ON (905) 768-9951

Understanding Metaphors

Welfare for Horses in Equine-assisted

therapy/learning. The use of metaphors

in Equine Assisted Learning [EAL] can provide opportu- nities for effecting positive change in a client’s daily life. A metaphor can be under- stood as one thing conceived as representing another. Some examples that I have experienced with clients are: “this horse won’t behave, re- minds me of one of my friends”; a barrel laid down on its side represented a CT scanner for someone recov- ering from cancer. While one of my horses stood in the round pen, my client’s thoughts were of a manager standing in his office. A multicolored parachute rep- resented a client’s oasis.

These are non-directive metaphors which the client creates. Metaphors assist me to

understand how clients are experiencing their world and help to raise their awareness. Using metaphors allows clients to provide a visual of their story safely and in a non-judgemental environ- ment. As facilitator of this process, my role is to help clients use their metaphors and symbols for self-discov- ery and self-development-to start untangling obstacles that are holding them back. Directive metaphors are use- ful during professional de- velopment sessions. For example, during team build- ing, I may ask “if teamwork is required to move this horse over an obstacle, then how will you “team” with

others at work to solve is- sues? Metaphors can be a powerful catalyst for effecting change in aspects of a client’s life- it is about transferrable learn- ing from the horses to life beyond. “Horses are a perfect

metaphor for life: there are no guarantees and virtually no limits.” - Jane Savoie.

About the Author: Anne Porteous, owner of Sierra Acres Equine Assisted Learning Program can be contacted on Facebook, or For more information about services go to www.sier-

Photo from from Equi-Spirit

Where the Whispers of Many Horses in need are Heard!

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:

About Equine Guelph: Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care

givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph in Canada. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit

Story by: Equine Guelph

Other web links: Research

Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Han- dling

of Body Condition Scoring quine_code_of_practice%20(1).pdf

activity: NDITION_FINAL/bcs_html5.html

American Association of Equine Practitioners Lameness Five

Freedoms Welfare_five_freedoms.pdf

Sierra Acres Equine Assisted Learning Centre

Scale. of Animal Welfare: Equines: paper:

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