Extract from Equine Matters. Spring 2008 issue. THE BLUE CROSS charity. A leader in animal welfare and education based in the UK.
‘So, what is ‘welfare’ and are you doing right by your horses ? I have recently been lucky enough to attend lectures from two distinguished vets on this very subject: Professor Daniel Mills BVSc, PhD, ILTM, CBiol, MIBiol, CCAB MRCVS, leading professor in veterinary behavioural medicine at Linoln University and Professor Derek Knottenbelt OBE, BVM&S, DVM, DipECEIM, MRCVS, head of equine studies at the University of Liverpool and a prominent ambassador and forthright proponent of equine welfare.
... Professor Knottenbelt used a quote ‘The penalty the horse pays for domestication is disease.’ Horrors ! But he is right: obesity, breathing difficulties, gastric ulcers, laminitis, equine metabolic syndrome, colic and joint problems, are all to an extent ‘man-made’ and are unparalleled in the wild horse. At the blue cross we strive to improve the mental and physical environment for our horses, many of which have come to us with problems because people may have made mistakes in their previous care and management. We know the cost of lack of mental stimulation, fiber in the diet, company, movement and fresh air - the horse can become a very sorry or aggressive creature. We strive to educate people on this and rehome these horses to fantastic knowledgeable caring homes.
Professor Mills spoke about guarding against being swept along by what is ‘usual’ stating ‘Common Practice is not necessarily Good Practice.’ He used the example of some yards where horses are kept in a stable for 24 hours, unable to touch other horses and without occupation and the resulting stable vices which are accepted as ‘normal’. Here, interestingly, I have found that often it is the relatively new horse owner who may have a better sense of what is right and what feels wrong as they are unencumbered by tradition and are prepared to challenge and question the way things are done. Common sense is needed in abundance, together with a desire to constantly strive to improve things, when it comes to horse ownership. Gut instinct is often right where animal welfare is concerned.
by Rosie Mogford. Equine welfare education officer for The Blue Cross