Welfare of equidae: code of practice

This guide covers all domesticated equidae for which a person is responsible, including all horses, ponies, donkeys and hybrids and details a set of principles underpinning equine care.

The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals

55. Being gregarious animals they prefer to live in social groups. Ideally they should be socialised with members of their own species but, where this is not possible, other animals, such as cattle, sheep or goats may be used to provide company. They also enjoy human company so, if kept on their own, they require more frequent human contact and supervision. Donkeys have particular socialisation needs and can, for example, become ill if separated from a companion.

56. They should always be treated as individuals even when kept in large groups. When forming new groups care should be taken to avoid fighting and stress, particularly if they are to be mixed together. This risk can be reduced by increasing the space allowance or by penning the new animal close to the existing group for a short period and/or removing back shoes of all animals during the introduction period. Separation of incompatible animals is particularly important in this system; they should not be mixed in fields or communal barns if any one individual is aggressive. Incompatible individuals, such as entire males (colts, stallions) and "rigs" (a stallion with undescended testicles or a horse which has been incompletely castrated) should be managed in order to prevent fighting or injury. In communal barns mares heavily in foal or with foal at foot should also be separated from other animals. When living in groups they always develop a pecking order, so it is important to be aware of bullying. It is also important that the correct amount of feed and water is provided for all the animals in the group. Care needs to be taken to ensure that those lower down the pecking order are getting the feed and water they require.

57. As a general rule the more animals kept, the more time, effort and resources are required to safeguard their welfare. Individuals in larger groups are likely to encounter more competition for food and water, shelter and social position.

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