The Freedom from and the Freedom to…. A Seminar Day on Horses' Physical and Mental Welfare
Welcome to a cross-disciplinary science-based approach to ethics and welfare for horses!
We invite you to a day on horse welfare and ethics – where we discuss who the horse is, what welfare is, what kinds of welfare there are – and where we can start when we want to improve our horses’ welfare.
We start the day off with an update on what research say about whom the horse is. About what we already know. We know he is an herbivore and a hind gut fermenter, a herd animal with advanced social communication and a hoofed prey animal with a big heart and great lung capacity. We know his senses are functioning differently that ours and that he even has senses we don’t have. We know his brain is half our size, but as convoluted as ours and that he has the biggest amygdala of all our domesticated animals. Although the horse is a much under-researched animal – the picture of the horse that is emerging from science – does that picture align with what we as “horse people” think a horse is?
The picture of who the horse is – is changing. How do we then adapt our welfare and our ethics around how we keep, handle, train and compete with horses? Are we adapting our welfare to what we now know about horses? Can we adapt to it? Do we even want to?
We will discuss the 5 freedoms that often is used as a base for animal welfare. We will look at the differences between freedom from pain, suffering, maltreatment or lack of horse knowledge to freedom to – explore, problem solve, think, have choices and agency.
We will look at definitions; what is choice, what is it to have agency, what is it to have your “voice” heard?
We will look at training methods, learning theories and the role of “enrichments”.
We will look at what part of horse welfare that has to do with our own mindsets and lenses, but also look at practical things we easily can do to improve horse welfare. Welfare is neither about pampering our horses, nor about letting them out to roam free without any care and assistance from us humans – but about an informed and balanced, and ongoing discussion and learning process about what can we do – to make it better for both humans and horses – to co-exist. So we can share our lives, be in a horse-human relationship where we have both very different species specific needs and behaviors, but also share a mammalian repertoire of certain basic behaviors and emotions.
We will look at our role as humans in horse’s lives. We will discuss anthropomorphism, the latest research in equine science, horse-human interaction, what we can learn from comparative psychology and cognitive science – and how we – by becoming better at observing horse behavior can both give horses better welfare and improve our own relationship with horses. We will also discuss what we don’t know.
These are all big topics – a day with us from MiMer will give you an introduction or an update and a fundamental knowledge of all this. We invite you to join us for this first step towards a deeper understanding of who the horse is, what he needs to thrive and what role we as humans can play in his life and our choice of what kind of relationship we want to have with horses. If you want to know more than what an introductory day can give – join our trainings and our network.