What is animal friendly? To answer the question of whether a husbandry system does justice to the animal, it is necessary to start from the biology of the animals: their demands and their adaptability to the environment. If the husbandry does not meet certain demands of the animals, their adaptability can be overstrained. As a consequence, the horse suffers pain, suffering or damage, as well as a reduction in the animal's well-being.
The demands of farm animals and their reactions when the demands are not met are not as obvious as with "fish out of water". However, there are scientific methods to recognize their demands and an overstrained adaptability. These are used to examine whether they can maintain their biological functions or whether diseases or stress reactions occur. Check whether the animals can show their species-specific behavior or whether there are severe behavioral deviations or disorders. Or it is tested whether physiological or behavioral reactions indicate negative sensations such as pain and frustration. To get a complete picture of the impact of a diet on animals, it is usually necessary to take into account several indicators.
The effects of animal husbandry can therefore be recognized directly on the basis of these animal-related indicators. How an attitude affects depends thereby on many factors. On the one hand, this basically depends on the conditions under which the horses are kept, for example, the design of the stalls and the opportunities for exercise. On the other hand the management plays a crucial role. If, for example, the feed is not correct, the climate in the barn is poor or mistakes are made in the treatment of the animals, even an otherwise optimal husbandry can have a negative effect on the animals. This can be recognized not by the husbandry conditions, but by the animals: By their behavior and by their health. This leaflet would therefore like to give some hints on which indicators you can recognize on the animals if everything is alright and where keeping conditions can be better adjusted or the management optimized.
2. Management includes all measures of care. Care of horses as well as the handling of horses in the daily operations of a horse farm. A special characteristic of horse keeping is the predominantly encountered situation that the horse owner does not keep his horse himself, but places it in a boarding stable.
This results in special requirements for the responsible horse owner. He has the expertise for good professional practice. On the other hand, he has to deal with the individual demands of the horse owner. He must perceive these claims and professionally assess whether they are feasible.
The welfare of the horse is always in the foreground, which the knowledgeable qualified horse owner must keep in mind.
Basically, the quality of management is determined by the qualification of the horse owner and the horse keeper as well as their knowledge and experience with horses. All of these skills are based on knowledge and understanding of the basic needs of horses and their behavior. The use of horses presupposes their health, both physical and psychological. The well-being of horses is also an expression of successful management.
In § 11 of the Animal Welfare Act, on-farm self-monitoring is a requirement to check the "good professional practice" of one's own livestock management. This fact sheet can also be used for this purpose.
3. Understanding the horse in its environment (horse behavior) – animal observation
In the course of its development history (evolution), the horse has developed into a herd-living flight animal, which primarily inhabits steppe-like biotopes. The domestication of the horse has no significant influence on the developmentally genetically anchored physiological and behavioral requirements that the horse places on its environment.
For example, under natural conditions, horses spend much of the day feeding by wandering, moving forward at a walk in search of suitable forage. Feed intake is time-consuming, continuous and selective, the horse eats structurally rich and low-energy plants. The horse's digestive system is specialized in this area. If it does not receive a supply of feed rich in crude fiber for several hours, it gets out of balance. Disturbances and impairments occur, up to colics.
Horses live in a herd when given the opportunity. Their social behavior is pronounced. Diversely coordinated among their conspecifics. They form a hierarchy and offer each other protection and social security. Therefore, it is important for horses to have contact with other horses of the same species.
Horses must be able to see, hear, smell and touch other horses. Synchronous behavior, d. h. Simultaneous feeding, dozing, resting and standing together in groups is a sign of well-being. The communication among conspecifics takes place by the expression behavior:
The horse has a wide range of expressive capabilities, except for the inability to make specific pain sounds. Characteristically, in a group, when encountering other conspecifics or interacting with humans, aggressive behavior, i. S. from hitting, biting, as far as possible omitted. Facial expression, ear play and body posture are sufficient for the horse as a means of communication – even in stressful situations, such as the allocation of feed – in order to communicate with each other.
Regardless of the type of husbandry or husbandry method, it is therefore appropriate to regularly observe the expressive behavior (facial expressions, posture, participation in the environment, interaction) in order to recognize the individual and species-specific behaviors and to be able to classify them accordingly.
Horses spend a large part of their day largely unobserved by humans or experience attention only at certain times (e.g., when they are being handled). B. Feeding, mucking, use) Attention.
In order to detect diseases or injuries in a timely manner, a regular amount of time is required that is focused solely on animal observation.
The different husbandry methods restrict the horse differently in the exercise of its species-specific behaviors. Behavioral abnormalities or behavioral problems are often observed in connection with certain events, z. B. the feed presentation. They can be reinforced by regular daily routines, even if the respective form of husbandry is not the causal trigger of the respective behavioral disorder.