The overwhelmingly common perceived motivation across the 12 scenarios was “ignorance,” which was mentioned 97 times.
Productive discussions of equine welfare issues require examining your own perceptions and potential biases closely. But they also require an understanding of what might motivate people to care for horses in ways that risk their welfare.
As part of ongoing research into perceptions of welfare issues, Cordelie DuBois, a doctoral candidate at the University of Guelph, asked 14 equine professionals to speculate on the motivation behind 12 hypothetical situations involving horse use and management. “We wanted to know why people thought other people made the choices they did,” says DuBois.
The overwhelmingly common perceived motivation across the 12 scenarios was “ignorance,” which was mentioned 97 times. The most common secondary descriptor in that category was “lack of knowledge,” mentioned 49 times out of those 97. This means the experts surmised that most poor welfare decisions were made because the individuals involved didn’t know any better.
“Ignorance typically has two different types,” says DuBois. “While one type is ‘lack of knowledge’—simply not having the knowledge necessary for a task—the other is something called ‘closed ignorance’; that is, a belief that one knows all one needs to know. Both of these provide their own unique challenges with respect to how best to address them.” Other subsets within the “ignorance” category included “lack of experience,” “lack of planning” and “lack of common sense.”
The second most often cited motivator was “financial reasons,” with 80 responses and “lack of resources” being the most common secondary description. “Human benefit” was the third most commonly cited motivator, with 55 mentions and more specific descriptions being “safety” and “a desire to win.” The final common motivator response was “convenience” with 36 mentions and “laziness” being the most common secondary description in that category.
“Human caregivers play a vital role in the welfare of their horses,” says DuBois. “As a result, an important part of improving equine welfare is understanding why they manage their horses the way they do.”