Traveller horses are often perceived to be exposed to poor welfare due to Travellers' traditional way of horsemanship. However, few studies have investigated Traveller horse welfare. Hence, the present study aims to explore Traveller horse owners' attitudes to horse care and welfare. Semi-structured interviews and discussion groups examined 14 Irish Traveller horse owners' attitudes and approach to horse ownership. Additionally, a body condition scoring (BCS) instrument was assessed for its accuracy and ease of use when applied by Traveller horse owners. Additionally, the BCS system was used to assess 18 horses. Results show that Travellers have a good understanding of horses' natural behaviours and environment, which is reflected in their management practices. However, barriers to improved welfare are land availability, since landowners are often reluctant to lease to Travellers, and the impoundment of horses as a consequence of fly grazing, under the Control of Horses Act 1996 (Ireland). Furthermore, Travellers regarded the BCS as a useful tool, but would require training to apply the scoring successfully. The results suggest that attitudes and management practices are favourable, but Travellers have limited means to overcome barriers. Therefore, it is necessary to increase capacity building and assist with the acquisition of land.
- horse welfare
- body conditioning scoring