How Useful Are Existing Protocols in the Quick Assessment of the Welfare of Semi-Feral Horses? Pilot Study on Konik Polski Horses Living in the Forest Sanctuary
AffiliationPolish Academy of Sciences; Institut Français du Cheval et d’Equitation; University of Chester
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AbstractScientifically validated and standardised methods for the evaluation of the welfare of free-living horses are urgently needed by both the owners and managers of these populations and those responsible for implementing national welfare legislation. The aim of the study was to test the feasibility and usefulness of two welfare protocols that could be applied to semi-feral populations: a prototype of welfare assessment template (WAT) for Carneddau semi-feral ponies and the IFCE/INRAE Horse Welfare Protocol. Additionally, the body condition scale designed by Henneke (BCS-H) was employed. The study took place in July/August 2022 and April 2023 to evaluate the welfare of a pilot population of nineteen semi-feral Konik polski horses. The horses scored high or satisfactory under indicators across both protocols; only body condition scores were significantly lower in early spring (BCS-WAT: 1.11 ± 0.57; BCS-H: 3.84 ± 1.17) than in the summer (BCS-WAT: 1.58 ± 0.61; BCS-H: 5.63 ± 1.01). Our study confirmed the feasibility of utilising most of the WAT and IFCE/INRAE welfare indicators in semi-feral horses. Some adaptations, such as considering validation of scales, positive welfare indicators and animals’ free-choice of conditions, have been suggested for future in-field application.
CitationGórecka-Bruzda, A., Siemieniuch, M., Lansade, L., & Stanley, C. R. (2024). How useful are existing protocols in the quick assessment of the welfare of semi-feral horses? Pilot study on Konik Polski horses living in the forest sanctuary. Animals, 14(1), 8. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani14010008
Series/Report no.Special Issue: Wild and Feral Equids—Biology, Conservation and Management
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