A core group of equine advocates has formed an Equine Well-Being Task Force to educate researchers and others about what it takes to have horses in maximum physical, emotional, and mental health.
The welfare of the horses in horse/human interactions is a hot topic, with many variables involved. Questions such as: Are the horses stressed? How much work and what type is too much? Is serviceably sound OK if riders are just walking? can be difficult to answer.
In creating the new guidelines, the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF) reviewed numerous national and international Equine Welfare Guidelines, and noted that there is a huge difference between keeping a horse in South Korea or Denmark or Arizona.
“We then decided to write the HHRF guidelines from the perspective of the horse and leave for discussion how to meet their needs in a variety of environments. And that opens the door for lots of educational pieces,” the HHRF said.
“HHRF wants to go beyond ‘Do No Harm’ to maximizing well-being for ‘The Highest Good’ of the horses, while respecting international cultures and guidelines. We believe this is essential to the quality of the research.”
The guidelines are based on four main tenets:
- The integrity of the research is directly related to the well-being and suitability of the horses providing the interactions.
- Horses are sentient beings that are aware of, sensitive to, and affected by their environment including the physical and emotional state of others in their presence.
- When a horse is well managed and cared for with consideration and empathy, they build resilience to more effectively and safely cope with the inevitable stresses of life.
- The horse needs to be in optimal physical, mental, and emotional health to enhance their ability to engage with humans.
More specific information is available in an extensive resource list to the HHRF Guidelines, available in a Word document.
• A survey on equine-assisted services (EAS) by the HHRF in conjunction with the Ireland-based Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy International AISBL (HETI) is still open. It is seeking information on how users access and interpret EAS research, and how it is incorporated into their equine work.