Through their eyes: the challenge of assessing equine emotional state

Natalie Waran, Hayley Randle, Liane Preshaw, Gemma Pearson, Carol Hall

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Until recently animal welfare assessment traditionally relied on measures of physical health, and changes in behaviour and physiology related to negative emotional states such as pain and stress. However, it is now widely accepted that good welfare is not simply the absence of disease or negative experiences, but also the presence of positive experiences such as pleasure. Horses have historically had a close association with humans and this horse–human relationship has become increasingly described in subjective and anthropomorphic terms. This combined with the generally non-livestock status of the horse often precluding it from welfare-based scrutiny and the advent of training methods that encourage the human to mimic horse behaviour and roles such as that of the ‘leader’, has exposed horses to greater threat of inadequate assessment of their welfare. For every horse in the world that is subject to some form of formal welfare-based assessment such as part of a competition there are many others who are not and are therefore at risk of continuing inadequate welfare. To ensure horses experience optimal welfare it is necessary to understand what good welfare is from the horse’s perspective, how welfare can be assessed across a range of environments and equine uses, and what needs to be done to achieve improved welfare. This is particularly pertinent when considering horse–human interactions from the horse’s point of view. We consider the development of an ‘Equine Quality of Life’ (EQoL) framework essential for providing horse owners, riders and practitioners with an evidence-based instrument for assessing the overall life experience of a horse.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
Event13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science : ISES 2017 Down Under - Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
Duration: 23 Nov 201725 Nov 2017
Conference number: 13 (Conference website, link to proceedings)


Conference13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleEquitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change
CityWagga Wagga
OtherThe 13th international conference of the International Society for Equitation Science took place on 23rd-25th November 2017 at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. This was the third time that the conference was in Australia (following Clonbinane, Victoria in 2005 and Sydney in 2009). Charles Sturt University is one of the few providers of degree level Equine Science education in Australia with ample equestrian facilities to host an international conference of this calibre, with the support of a wide range of sponsors.

The conference theme ‘Equitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change’ attracted over 150 delegates from 17 different countries and all Australian states. The theme was supported by an academic programme of 29 oral presentations and 28 posters. Delegates learnt about the role of the horse in education including breeding work, foal handling and contribution to the veterinary industry and survival of other horses. Each of the 3Cs (Collaboration, Communication and Change) were thoroughly addressed and the two workshops - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (designed to develop an appreciation of the pillars of Equitation Science in order to identify future directions with valuable input from ISES Honorary Fellows all of whom have been globally recognised for their contribution to Animal Welfare) and Human Behaviour Change (designed to identify key areas where change in human practice is needed to improve horse welfare) were enjoyed by Practitioners and Academics, Students and Honorary Fellows alike.

The conference was fully and actively supported by senior Charles Sturt University staff (Prof Glenn Edwards, Head of School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Prof Tim Wess, Executive Dean of Science and Prof Andrew Vann, Vice Chancellor).
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