"Horse Welfare."

Adele Arnold and Naomi Botherus and Clive Phillips

The welfare of horses is becoming an increasingly important issue in many parts of the world, particularly for horses used for recreation. This is because recreation is the principal use of horses in many countries today, in contrast with the largely working role they have played in the past. Animal welfare organisations and government enforcement bodies are finding it increasingly difficult to handle the number of complaints received about horse welfare problems because significant time and resources are required to deal with them.

Horse welfare problems occur frequently in Victoria and range from mild problems to very severe problems. The RSPCA (Victoria) alone investigates an average of 1,400 horse welfare complaints annually, this figure being second only to dog welfare investigations. Other authorised officers, such as authorised council officers, the Police and authorised officers from the Department of Primary Industries also investigate horse welfare problems. There are varied beliefs about the types of problems that occur and the reasons why they occur, however prior to this study no research has been conducted to confirm these beliefs.

A study was conducted by Naomi Pearson, as a Master of Animal Welfare with the University of Melbourne, to identify the type and severity of horse welfare problems inspected by the RSPCA in Victoria and to identify the characteristics of the horses' environment that were related to their welfare. Additionally, a survey was conducted of 100 owners that were inspected by the RSPCA throughout Victoria, of which 70 had horse welfare problems and 30 did not, to examine the relationship between some attributes of these owners, and horse welfare. An additional 30 horse owners that were members of adult riding clubs were surveyed, to provide an alternative control group.

The results of this study will be beneficial in the development of appropriate education material and programs, government policy and legislation, aimed at reducing the number and severity of horse welfare problems that occur.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Naomi Pearson on 9217 4228.

The Animal Welfare Science Centre was established by the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria. The Centre focuses and coordinates the research and academic resources of the three collaborating organisations, providing the animal industries, animal users, the farming community, Government, the general community and the academic community with an internationally competitive research, teaching and training resource in animal welfare.