Tak­ing no chances

A horse is put up for sale by his owner. In or­der to en­sure that he doesn’t get “marked up” by his pas­ture­mates, the horse is turned out alone in a pad­dock where he can see other horses but can­not in­ter­act with them, even over the fence.

EQUUS - - Eq Casereport -

The me­dian (or “mid­dle” value, used as a mea­sure to gauge the most “typ­i­cal” score) rank­ing of this sit­u­a­tion by ex­perts in the study was a 2, mean­ing that over­all, they did not feel the level of iso­la­tion de­scribed in the vi­gnette was par­tic­u­larly threat­en­ing to the horse’s wel­fare. De­spite the fact that pro­fes­sion­als in­di­cated that a horse’s psy­cho­log­i­cal health is an im­por­tant part of his wel­fare, this sce­nario did not re­ceive a score higher than 3.

How­ever, the com­ments from the ex­perts re­vealed how in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances can al­ter an equa­tion. This, and sev­eral other sce­nar­ios, high­lighted the im­por­tance of know­ing how a cer­tain horse will re­act to the sit­u­a­tion de­scribed. “While some horses may be used to soli­tary turnout, oth­ers are more ‘herd bound,’” says DuBois. “As a re­sult, the sepa­ra­tion from his herd­mates may af­fect the wel­fare of one horse more than an­other.” Other re­spon­dents pointed out how a few days of psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­com­fort might be worth the ben­e­fits. “The feel­ing was that if be­ing sold would im­prove the horse’s wel­fare, then the short-term iso­la­tion could help that hap­pen faster, ul­ti­mately help­ing the horse,” she adds.

This vi­gnette, says DuBois, il­lus­trates how a wel­fare sit­u­a­tion nearly ev­ery­one agrees on in prin­ci­pal can lead to dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions in re­al­world sit­u­a­tions and when con­sid­er­ing the needs of in­di­vid­ual horses.

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