Harvey, A. M., Ramp, D., Mellor, D. J. 2022. Review of the foundational knowledge required for assessing horse welfare. Animals 12(23), 3385.

A detailed understanding of what is usual for a species under optimal conditions is critical for identifying and interpreting different features of body function that have known impacts on animal welfare and its assessment. When applying the Five Domains Model to assess animal welfare, the key starting point is therefore to acquire extensive species-specific knowledge relevant to each of the four physical/functional Domains of the Model. These Domains, 1 to 4, address areas where objective information is evaluated and collated. They are: (1) Nutrition; (2) Physical environment; (3) Health; and (4) Behavioural interactions. It is on the basis of this detailed knowledge that cautious inferences can then be made about welfare-relevant mental experiences animals may have, aligned with Domain 5, Mental State. However, this review is focused entirely on the first four Domains in order to provide a novel holistic framework to collate the multidisciplinary knowledge of horses required for undertaking comprehensive welfare assessments. Thus, inferring the potential mental experiences aligned with Domain 5, the final step in model-based welfare assessments, is not considered here. Finally, providing extensive information on free-roaming horses enables a better understanding of the impacts of human interventions on the welfare of horses in both free-roaming and domestic situations.

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