Popescu, S., Lazar, E. A., Borda, C. et al. 2019. Welfare quality of breeding horses under different housing conditions. Animals 9(3), 81.
This paper investigates the effect of different housing conditions on the welfare quality of breeding horses. Using a welfare protocol that included health and behavioral parameters, 330 stallions (kept in tie-stall housing) and 365 broodmares (kept in extensive, mostly free housing) were assessed. The horses were categorized into four welfare categories (“not classified”, “acceptable”, “enhanced” and “excellent”), according to an individual welfare score calculated for each horse. The prevalence of stallions with dyspnea, tendon and joint swellings, abnormal gait and abnormal hoof horn quality was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than that of the broodmares. No significant difference (p > 0.05) was found in the human-related behavioral response of the two categories of breeding horses. The median individual welfare scores were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the broodmares than in the breeding stallions. The mares had “enhanced” and “excellent” welfare, while the stallions had “acceptable” and “enhanced” welfare. The results revealed differences in the horses’ welfare quality for the different housing conditions. Accordingly, it can be concluded that positive changes in housing management, such as free housing with the use of boxes, could improve the welfare quality of breeding stallions.