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Does horse health = horse welfare?

Posted September 20, 2021

Does horse health = horse welfare? Cause you don’t know, what you don’t know, until you do know. 

Horse welfare is something here at Equine Connection that we pride ourselves in. That is what our certification is all about. Partnering vs. using the horse, meaning that we are going to work WITH the horse as opposed to using a living being.

About 4 or 5 years ago we got together with Guelph University, as Guelph was really excited that we are “the welfare of the horse” with our certification, which is something they teach there. We flew out for a course to meet with our clients who were ready to take on the certification because we work with them throughout the duration of this certification. While there, a question was posed… “Is horse health the same as horse welfare?”

Horse health and horse welfare are not the same things as it is not just about the health of the horse that brings welfare to the horse. Although we think we are doing the right thing for the horse by feeding them minerals, putting a blanket on them, etc. (which are all great things to do) is that the welfare piece that our horses need? We always have to remember that these are prey animals, so it is important to listen and work with them, so they have what they actually need. This can be paralleled back to humans because at the end of the day, is it just food, water, and shelter that we need? HECK NO! We need other interactions and things around us to feel safe, just like these beautiful prey animals. Do you want to be used day today? Again, HECK NO. You need people to work with you, just like the horses.

In order for welfare to even exist for the horse, we as humans have to understand a horse will never think like us; they do not have emotions like us. When we take that out of the equation and realize that a horse is not like a human and therefore, can only think, act and respond, then we are getting to the welfare piece. It is important that we take a step back and assess when a horse is trying to communicate with us because they cannot simply think about the situation but just react, which speaks volumes. Are they up in your space for a reason? What are they trying to tell you? Welfare is about looking deeper and not just at the basic needs.

The number one thing is horses need to feel safe. What does safety for a horse mean? Are we providing that for our horses? What can we do to ensure the horse is feeling safe? Since their number one instinct is herding, we can begin by ensuring they are with at least one other horse. They need to do specific things together to help balance each other which horses can only do that with other horses. They are able to use their teeth to move things around for each other; to essentially move energy.

The next thing is providing necessary measures for the horse to make sure they feel good, which is done through their feet and teeth. Sometimes we think just because we cannot physically see a gash, wound or blood, that our horses are fine but this is not the case. Their teeth and feet need to always be looked after, because if they are out of balance, so is the rest of them. If they are a little out of balance, it will affect everything else they do. 

#HolyJumpin’TunaFish the welfare of the horse is so much more than just health! 

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