McGreevy, P., Berger, J., de Brauwere, N. et al. 2018. Using the five domains model to assess the adverse impacts of husbandry, veterinary, and equitation interventions on horse welfare. Animals 8(3), 41.
The aim of this study was to conduct a series of paper-based exercises in order to assess the negative (adverse) welfare impacts, if any, of common interventions on domestic horses across a broad range of different contexts of equine care and training. An international panel (with professional expertise in psychology, equitation science, veterinary science, education, welfare, equestrian coaching, advocacy, and community engagement; n = 16) met over a four-day period to define and assess these interventions, using an adaptation of the domain-based assessment model. The interventions were considered within 14 contexts: C1 Weaning; C2 Diet; C3 Housing; C4 Foundation training; C5 Ill-health and veterinary interventions (chiefly medical); C6 Ill-health and veterinary interventions (chiefly surgical); C7 Elective procedures; C8 Care procedures; C9 Restraint for management procedures; C10 Road transport; C11 Activity—competition; C12 Activity—work; C13 Activity—breeding females; and C14 Activity—breeding males. Scores on a 1–10 scale for Domain 5 (the mental domain) gathered during the workshop were compared with overall impact scores on a 1–10 scale assigned by the same panellists individually before the workshop. The most severe (median and interquartile range, IQR) impacts within each context were identified during the workshop as: C1 abrupt, individual weaning (10 IQR 1); C2 feeding 100% low-energy concentrate (8 IQR 2.5); C3 indoor tie stalls with no social contact (9 IQR 1.5); C4 both (i) dropping horse with ropes (9 IQR 0.5) and forced flexion (9 IQR 0.5); C5 long-term curative medical treatments (8 IQR 3); C6 major deep intracavity surgery (8.5 IQR 1); C7 castration without veterinary supervision (10 IQR 1); C8 both (i) tongue ties (8 IQR 2.5) and (ii) restrictive nosebands (8 IQR 2.5); C9 ear twitch (8 IQR 1); C10 both (i) individual transport (7.00 IQR 1.5) and group transport with unfamiliar companions (7 IQR 1.5); C11 both (i) jumps racing (8 IQR 2.5) and Western performance (8 IQR 1.5); C12 carriage and haulage work (6 IQR 1.5); C13 wet nurse during transition between foals (7.5 IQR 3.75); and C14 teaser horse (7 IQR 8). Associations between pre-workshop and workshop scores were high, but some rankings changed after workshop participation, particularly relating to breeding practices. Domain 1 had the weakest association with Domain 5. The current article discusses the use of the domain-based model in equine welfare assessment, and offers a series of assumptions within each context that future users of the same approach may make when assessing animal welfare under the categories reported here. It also discusses some limitations in the framework that was used to apply the model.