Could it be that your stabling is having a negative effect on your horse?
A new report from researchers at Nottingham Trent University has highlighted the potential negative welfare consequences of a commonly used stable design.
Scientists discovered that horses who were housed individually with little or no contact with other animals showed significantly higher signs of a stress response.
“Inadequate housing design potentially causes stress and negative consequences on the health and well-being of horses, despite the fact that it can be easily addressed by introducing more windows or shared areas,” says Kelly Yarnell, an expert in equine welfare at Nottingham Trent University. “Group housing provides horses with an environment where they are able to display natural behaviour, and contact with other horses improves overall welfare.”
Charity World Horse Welfare agrees that poorly managed stabling can cause significant distress. “Whilst we believe that stabling does have an important and beneficial role to play in the wide variety of ways that we can manage horses in the UK today, this must be done responsibly,” says Chief Executive Roly Owers, who adds that we should be mindful of not reading too much into any single piece of research, not least because horses are individuals and what suits one animal does not necessarily suit another.
Most of the horses at World Horse Welfare’s four UK Rescue and Rehoming Centres live out in groups with access to field shelters. Those who need to be stabled are housed in large, open-sided crew yards where horses can be kept in small groups up to three or four and horses who need to be on their own can easily socialise over partition walls.
The key point horse owners should take away from the study is the need for horses to have social interaction.”It is totally unacceptable to house a horse all-day in a stable with both top and bottom door bolted; however we would also seriously question a horse kept out at pasture 24/7 without any companionship. Clearly equine companionship is a great option but people and other animals can play a role here too,” Owers continues.
Some of the key issues to consider with stabling include:
For more information see www.worldhorsewelfare.org