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Better Advocates to Promote Positive Equine WelfareApril 2019

Story by: Monica Laane-Fralick

Equine Welfare course“Is it generally human behaviour and human decisions that impact on the negative welfare of horses? By the same token, is it human behaviour and human decisions that can impact on the positive welfare of horses?” This was a question posed to me by Equine Guelph Director, Gayle Ecker, during the Equine Welfare course in the summer of 2018.

This took me on a learning journey into Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare (HBCA) – a journey I am still on today and will continue to pursue. HBCA has only recently emerged as a scientific approach to improving equine welfare. This science can be the key to helping us understand why we make the decisions that we do when it comes to our horses by studying our own behaviours.

Two women leading this field of study are Jo White and Suzanne Rogers, who co-founded the company Human Behaviour Change for Animals CIC. Their mission is “to build the capacity of those working in animal welfare by developing their understanding of the key principles of human behaviour change and how to apply them.”

Over the years, science has explored ways to improve the lives of animals. Great strides have been made in the way we house and feed our horses, the healthcare we provide, and the ways in which we train them. Horse behaviour has been studied, books written, and papers published. All of this done to improve the welfare of our equines through scientific studies of the animal itself—the horse.

But what about us, the human animal? Are we as knowledgeable about ourselves as we are about the horse?

The cases of neglect, suffering, and abuse continue even though science has provided us with most of the answers to avoid this. Why is it that many who interact with animals still do not follow sound practices to improve animal welfare or follow advice of others whose approaches can have negative impacts? We need to study ourselves and change our habits and views as a first step.

As humans, we have the knowledge, motivation, and understanding to make changes to our behaviours, yet many times, we fail. When we are trying to improve the lives of animals, we expect that once we tell people what to do, they will automatically go ahead and make the changes necessary. According to Suzanne Rogers, in her presentation at the Asia for Animals (AFA) Conference in 2017, this is likely not going to happen. She says we need to go deeper into understanding human behaviour to make positive changes for animals.

The Equine Behaviour and Training Association (EBTA) echoes these sentiments, by saying that “we must understand and change our own behaviours, and why we do (or don’t do) the things that we do to fully understand that changing our behaviours can only make a better world, for animals, and humans alike.”

We must acknowledge our responsibility to the horse for taking them out of their natural environment, and recognize that behaviour problems stem from us, and not the horse.

The online Equine Welfare course from Equine Guelph helps horse owners and industry professionals alike understand how we can all be better advocates to promote positive welfare. Covering such topics as HBCA, pain recognition in the horse, integrated or alternative medicines, and the issues surrounding the unwanted horse, this course will also give you a chance to learn from your classmates on a multitude of fascinating welfare topics.

Monica Laane-FralickMonica Laane-Fralick has earned the Diploma in Equine Studies, Certificate in Equine Welfare, and the Certificate in Equine Business Management through Equine Guelph. She is also completing the Editing Certificate through Simon Fraser University and will be starting a freelance career in Equine Journalism and Editing.