Assessing equine emotional state

Carol Hall, Hayley Randle, Gemma Pearson, Liane Preshaw, Natalie Waran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The scientific study of animal emotion has recently become an important focus for animal behaviour and welfare researchers. For horses used by humans for work, recreation or sport, the question of the significance of their life experiences in terms of their emotional response, is an important one if we are to provide for their welfare needs. Horses have received relatively less scientific attention than many livestock species when it comes to in- vestigating emotional state or affective experience, although their behavioural responses during sporting or recreational performance are often described anecdotally using terminology indicating an underlying pre- sumption of equine emotions. Indeed, the international governing body for equestrian sport, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), include the concept of ‘the Happy Equine Athlete’ into their rules, as a key ob- jective during training and competition.
This review presents available evidence to date of the physiological, behavioural and cognitive components of equine emotion and evaluates the extent to which the question concerning ‘how horses feel’ can be answered. The characterization of equine emotion in terms of level of arousal and valence, based on physiological, be- havioural and cognitive indicators, offers a way forward to determine the impact of different situations and experiences on horses during their working lives. There is a need to develop robust validated methods for accessing equine emotions, to underpin a universally agreed method for/approach to providing an accurate assessment of equine welfare that can be utilized in a variety of contexts. This will provide a means of monitoring and improving the horse’s experience, ensuring that the horse enjoys a good life, rather than one that is just worth living.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


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