80 (3) pp 240-247

Relationship between the housing of and physical health deficiencies in horses: a survey of horse owners and their perception

The objective of this preliminary study was to investigate the relationship between the housing conditions and thehealth and welfare of horses. A survey, based on a questionnaire containing 36 multiple choice questions about variousaspects of the housing of horses was conducted. A questionnaire was sent via email to approximately 600 horse ownersin Flanders. A total of 225 horse owners completed the questionnaire. The study provides a clear picture of the riskfactors that horse owners in practice recognize and the link they see between housing related diseases. Although horseowners usually are sufficiently aware of these influences, they are not taken care of in practice. According to fifty percentof the respondents, the major reason is the impracticability of the advice of the veterinarian. According to thehorse owners, the main risk factors affecting the health of horses are: draft, the lack of quarantine measures and the presenceof (sharp) foreign objects in the stable. As a consequence, more than 50% of the respondents report nasal dischargeand coughing as common problems in their horses. Sixty-seven percent of the horse owners are satisfied withthe overall management of the stable. However, there is a widespread dissatisfaction with regard to quarantine measures,in case of a disease outbreak (30% of the horse owners) and in case of the introduction of new animals into a group(36%). Fifty percent of the respondents score their own stable infrastructure 8/10 or more while about one out of fouris less satisfied (7/10) about the floor and the walls of their stables.The results of this study can help owners and veterinarians to identify housing factors that may increase the riskto health and welfare problems in horses. This should lead to an improved well-being of the modern, often prolonged- housed horse.

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In practice