How Human Behavior Impacts Horse Welfare

While that might sound obvious, it’s important to recognize the link between attitude and behavior to bring about welfare change. Specifically, one researcher says, education programs should first focus on changing attitudes to change people’s behavior.
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How human behavior impacts horse welfare
Helmsworth said inappropriate horse management often occurs due to a lack of knowledge, not intentional abuse. So, efforts to improve the welfare should focus on improving human behaviors by modifying their attitudes, and that can come by sharing knowledge, she said. | Photo: iStock

If you’re going to change behavior, you’ve got to start with changing attitudes.

That concept is particularly important with regard to the welfare of leisure horses in developed countries. One Australian researcher says improving these animals’ welfare requires that their owners change their behavior. And for them to do that, their attitudes must evolve.

“Measuring salient (fundamental) beliefs predicts behavior, which has direct implications for welfare,” said Lauren Hemsworth, PhD, of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences’ Animal Welfare Science Centre, in Parkville, Victoria. “If you find negative attitudes, hence negative salient beliefs, about a particular behavior, you’ll have negative performance of that behavior. And if you find positive attitudes, and hence positive beliefs, you’ll have positive performance

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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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