Study: Not All Working Equids Suffer Serious Welfare Issues

Researchers found that in Chile, the horses belonging to even the poorest individuals often led good and healthy lives.
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Study: Not All Working Equids Suffer Serious Welfare Issues
In Chile, the horses belonging to even the poorest individuals often lead good and healthy lives. | Photo: iStock
It’s not a secret: Working equids can suffer from overwork, poor nutrition, parasites, inadequate hoof care, extreme temperatures, ill-fitting tack, excessively heavy loads, disease, neglect, physical abuse, and more. It’s the reason the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) chose to give special priority focus to these animals’ health and welfare as part of its new strategy last year.

But the picture isn’t always this grim. In a recent study Chilean researchers determined that working equids’ welfare status can vary considerably from country to country despite similar socioeconomic statuses among owners. In Chile, the horses belonging to even the poorest individuals often lead good and healthy lives. What’s more, their owners are frequently emotionally attached to these animals.

“In general, we have found that the welfare state of working equines in Chile is better than in other countries,” said Tamara Tadich, PhD, of the University of Chile Faculty of Veterinary Sciences Department of Animal Production and Husbandry, in Santiago. “We believe this is associated with the fact that the work intensity is lower, the climate factors are more favorable, and most owners are concerned about their horses; they are practically part of their family and treated as such.”

In their study, Tadich and her fellow researchers evaluated 100 urban draft horses and their owners in Chile’s Metropolitana de Santiago and Araucania regions. The work formed part of PhD candidate Daniela Luna’s doctoral dissertation, also at the University of Chile

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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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