CZAAWE Resource Article

Recreational horse welfare: The relationships between recreational horse owner attributes and recreational horse welfare
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
In recent years the welfare of recreational horses has become an increasingly important issue, as evident by their high representation in welfare investigations around the world, however, little is known about the welfare of horses used in this capacity. The scientific literature concerning recreational horse welfare has focused primarily on observed welfare problems, measurable welfare indices and the role of welfare indices in horse welfare assessment. To date, very little research has been undertaken to identify the key factors associated with recreational horse welfare and the underlying causes of these welfare concerns. Recreational horse welfare is primarily the responsibility of the horse owner, and industry reports suggest the welfare of recreational horses is determined predominantly by the horse owner's performance of husbandry and management practices. The available literature, whilst limited, identifies possible relationships between horse owner attributes and horse welfare outcomes. An important determinant of domestic animal management and their ensuing welfare outcomes is the human–animal relationship. A framework for studying the human–animal relationship and its relevance to welfare outcomes is to establish a sequential link between owner attributes, owner behaviour and horse welfare outcomes. A substantial body of research has demonstrated a sequential relationship between the attitudes and behaviour of humans and subsequent animal behaviour and welfare in a number of livestock industries. This area of research has been largely ignored in recreational horses; however, it is reasonable to assume that relationships similar to those reported in a number of livestock industries may exist in recreational horse populations. Given, the literature pertaining to the human–animal relationship and the impact of human–animal interactions on animal welfare in livestock species, the findings of a limited number of studies linking horse owner attitudes with horse welfare outcomes, and the absence of any substantive research into the relationship between horse owner attitudes and the welfare of recreational horses, further research is warranted to investigate possible sequential relationships between horse owner attributes, including horse owner attitudes and behaviour, and the subsequent association with the welfare of recreational horses. Increasing our understanding of the nature of the association between horse owner attributes within human–horse interactions would provide the opportunity to improve the quality of the human–horse relationship and thus the welfare of recreational horses.