Working Towards a Better Understanding of Equine Welfare at the Farm Level


Cordelie DuBois, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph

In a Delphi survey of equine professionals, ignorance was identified as a prominent threat to equine welfare in the Canadian industry. Increased owner education and awareness are considered to be benefits of on-farm assessments, familiarizing owners with standards of care, as well as highlighting areas of potential concern.

As part of a larger project, an on-farm welfare assessment tool was designed and tested on farms in Southern Ontario (n=27). Pre- and post-assessment interviews of participating farm owners were also conducted. This additional qualitative data was used to determine owner familiarity with Canadian standards (in the form of the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Codes of Practice for equines), awareness of welfare risks on their own farms, and their perception of the usefulness of an on-farm assessment in the Canadian industry. Only 50 per cent of owners reported being familiar with NFACC’s Code of Practice, which likely helps to account for the discrepancies found between owner self-report and the on-farm assessment results, particularly with respect to structural elements (e.g. stall sizes).

Farm owners indicated that they felt an on-farm assessment would be very useful to newcomers in the industry and in an accreditation program to provide credibility to equine businesses. In order combat ignorance and improve equine welfare, it is critical to understand not only what owners know but also how well educational opportunities like on-farm assessments are received. As such, opening dialogue between owners and researchers is a necessity in order to find successful methods of continued learning.


  1. Ignorance is perceived as one of the biggest threats to equine welfare in the Canadian industry.
  2. Parameters included in an on-farm welfare assessment.
  3. The potential benefits of an on-farm welfare assessment.

Cordelie DuBois is a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, currently working on a project that focuses on gaining insight into the perception of welfare issues in the Canadian equine industry, as well as designing an assessment tool based on the recently revised National Farm Animal Care Council's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines and the most up-to-date scientific literature.