A Hands-On Approach for Assessing Working Equid Welfare

A five-step approach makes it easier for owners to remember which basic health and welfare aspects to assess.
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A Hands-On Approach for Assessing Working Equid Welfare
By using the hand as a guide, they’ve validated a five-step approach that gives us an important primary look into how these animals are faring in their working world. | Photo: iStock
Researchers are giving owners and local authorities in developing countries a “hand” in assessing working equid health and welfare. By using the hand as a guide, they’ve validated a five-step approach that gives us an important primary look into how these animals are faring in their working world.

“The advantage of this five-step approach, developed by The Donkey Sanctuary, is that by using the hand, it is easier for the owners to remember some basic health and welfare aspects that need to be assessed,” said Tamara Tadich, PhD, of the University of Chile Faculty of Veterinary Sciences Department of Animal Production, in Santiago. “This hands-on approach is a simple, basic method that allows us to have a first look into the main issues that might be affecting the equids and then start a more specific approach.”

This hands-on approach draws from the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s five freedoms. Each finger on the hand represents a category of health and welfare to consider and evaluate—an easy way to help owners and veterinarians to remember what to monitor:

  • Thumb: behavior, quality of communication between animal and caregiver
  • Index: body condition score
  • Middle: presence/absence of wounds
  • Ring: presence/absence of lameness
  • Pinky: ill health (such as disease)

Furthermore, they use the palm of the hand to consider the life of the equid within the community, with mainly resource-based indicators (age, population, end-of-life issues, etc.)

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Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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