Equine industry perceptions of the possible impact of the current economic recession on equine welfare

L.J. Cameron, P.E. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


Cultural perception of animal welfare is intertwined with the economic well being and level of education of the keepers of the animals. In general, the greater the wealth of a country and the higher the education level of the population, the more concern is evident for the welfare of animals. Ownership of the domestic horse (Equus caballus) has changed beyond recognition in the past 30 years. Historically, the horse was an animal kept to fulfil a purpose, such as agricultural toil, transport requirements or sporting pursuits. Increasingly, the ownership of horses has become a leisure activity with proportionally less of the equine population being utilised for work or sport, with many more being classified as 'leisure horses'. This has led to a profound change in the equestrian profile of the majority of horse owners in the UK and it is unclear at the present time how this change in equestrian knowledge may affect the welfare of the UK horse population. Many aspects of the general care and welfare of the horse are expensive, which may lead to horse owners prioritising these routine management tasks to lighten the economic burden of horse ownership. It has been suggested that the change in the knowledge base of the horse owning public and the economic pressures placed upon them may lead to the welfare of the horse population being compromised as routine management tasks are omitted by less knowledgeable owners. A survey questionnaire was designed by Sparsholt College BSc Equine Studies Year 3 students and distributed to a wide range of horse owners and managers in Hampshire. Each respondent was identified by their level of experience and equestrian qualifications, which were then related to how they rated 5 standard management tasks considered essential in the overall care and management of all horses. These tasks were worming, regular shoeing/foot trimming, vaccinations, dietary supplementation and regular dentistry checks. The management tasks were ranked on a 1-5 scale with the most important being assigned the value 5 and the least important the value 1. A significant difference was identified between the importance of these tasks (P = 0.000) with regular shoeing/foot trimming being the management task assigned the greatest importance by all levels of horse keepers and dietary supplementation being considered the least important. These results were then related to the horse keeper's level of equestrian experience and education however no significant differences between the opinions of experience groups were identified (P > 0.05). It was surprising to find that when asked which management tasks the respondents would consider economising on, 21% identified regular shoeing/foot trimming as an area that could be achieved at a lower cost even although this management task had been identified as the most important in the ranking scale. These results suggest a dichotomy between the horse keeper's attitudes to the importance of a management task, regardless of their level of experience, and their opinion of the possibility of economising upon its completion. Further research is required to identify how these economies would be achieved by horse keepers and the possible impact on the welfare of the general horse population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170
JournalAnimal Welfare
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • United Kingdom
  • animal welfare
  • college
  • dentistry
  • diet supplementation
  • economic aspect
  • economic recession
  • education
  • horse
  • human
  • industry
  • knowledge base
  • leisure
  • manager
  • organization and management
  • population
  • questionnaire
  • sport
  • student
  • vaccination
  • welfare
  • wellbeing
  • worm expulsion


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