Skip to main content Accessibility help

Initial outcomes of a harmonized approach to collect welfare data in sport and leisure horses

  • E. Dalla Costa (a1), F. Dai (a1), D. Lebelt (a2), P. Scholz (a2), S. Barbieri (a1), E. Canali (a1) and M. Minero (a1)...


A truthful snapshot of horse welfare conditions is a prerequisite for predicting the impact of any actions intended to improve the quality of life of horses. This can be achieved when welfare information, gathered by different assessors in diverse geographical areas, is valid, comparable and collected in a harmonized way. This paper aims to present the first outcomes of the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) approach: the results of on-farm assessment and a reliable and harmonized data collection system. A total of 355 sport and leisure horses, stabled in 40 facilities in Italy and in Germany, were evaluated by three trained assessors using the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for horses. The AWINHorse app was used to collect, store and send data to a common server. Identified welfare issues were obesity, unsatisfactory box dimensions, long periods of confinement and lack of social interaction. The digitalized data collection was feasible in an on-farm environment, and our results suggest that this approach could prove useful in identifying the most relevant welfare issues of horses in Europe or worldwide.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) 2015a. AWIN welfare assessment protocol for horses. Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.
Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) 2015b. AWINHorse app. Retrieved on 23 November 2015 from
Asknes, F and Mejdell, C 2012. Back soreness is common among ‘healthy’ riding horses. Proceedings of the 46th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, 31 July–4 August 2012, Vienna, Austria, 236pp.
Battini, M, Stilwell, G, Vieira, A, Barbieri, S, Canali, E and Mattiello, S 2015. On-farm welfare assessment protocol for adult dairy goats in intensive production systems. Animals (Basel) 5, 934950.
Blokhuis, HJ, Veissier, I, Miele, M and Jones, B 2010. The Welfare Quality® project and beyond: safeguarding farm animal well-being. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A – Animal Science 60, 129140.
Botreau, R, Veissier, I, Butterworth, A, Bracke, MBM and Keeling, LJ 2007. Definition of criteria for overall assessment of animal welfare. Animal Welfare 16, 225228.
Burn, CC, Dennison, TL and Whay, HR 2010. Relationships between behaviour and health in working horses, donkeys, and mules in developing countries. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 126, 109118.
Burn, CC, Pritchard, J and Whay, HR 2009. Observer reliability for working equine welfare assessment: problems with high prevalences of certain results. Animal Welfare 18, 177187.
Christensen, JW, Keeling, LJ and Nielsen, BL 2005. Responses of horses to novel visual, olfactory and auditory stimuli. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 93, 5365.
Cooper, J and Albentosa, M 2005. Behavioural adaptation in the domestic horse: potential role of apparently abnormal responses including stereotypic behaviour. Livestock Production Science 92, 177182.
Dai, F, Cogi, NH, Heinzl, EUL, Dalla Costa, E, Canali, E and Minero, M 2015a. Validation of a fear test in sport horses using infrared thermography. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 10, 128136.
Dai, F, Dalla Costa, E, Battini, M, Barbieri, S, Ferrari, L, Minero, M, Mattiello, S and Canali, E 2015b. New frontiers in welfare data collection: AWINGoat and AWINHorse app. Proceedings of AWSELVA-ECAWBM-ESVCE Congress, 30 September–3 October 2015, Bristol, United Kingdom, 42pp.
Dai, F, Dalla Costa, E, Battini, M, Barbieri, S, Minero, M, Mattiello, S and Canali, E 2014. An innovative tool for on-farm data collection and information sharing. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level, 3–5 September 2014, Clermont-Ferrand, France, 153pp.
Dalla Costa, E, Dai, F, Lebelt, D, Scholz, P, Barbieri, S, Canali, E, Zanella, AJ and Minero, M 2016. Welfare assessment of horses: the AWIN approach. Animal Welfare (in press).
Dalla Costa, E, Minero, M, Lebelt, D, Stucke, D, Canali, E and Leach, MC 2014. Development of the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS) as a pain assessment tool in horses undergoing routine castration. PLoS ONE 9, e92281.
Dalla Costa, E, Murray, LAM, Dai, F, Canali, E and Minero, M 2014. Equine on-farm welfare assessment: a review of animal-based indicators. Animal Welfare 23, 323341.
Dyson, S 2011. Can lameness be graded reliably? Equine Veterinary Journal 43, 379382.
Forkman, B, Boissy, A, Meunier-Salaün, M-C, Canali, E and Jones, RB 2007. A critical review of fear tests used on cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and horses. Physiology & Behavior 92, 340374.
Geor, RJ 2008. Metabolic predispositions to laminitis in horses and ponies: obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic syndromes. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 28, 753759.
Górecka-Bruzda, A, Jastrzêbska, E, Sosnowska, Z, Jaworski, Z, Jezierski, T and Chruszczewski, MH 2011. Reactivity to humans and fearfulness tests: field validation in Polish Cold Blood Horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 133, 207215.
Halliwell, REW, McGorum, BC, Irving, P and Dixon, P 1993. Local and systemic antibody production in horses affected with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 38, 201215.
Hausberger, M, Roche, H, Henry, S and Visser, EK 2008. A review of the human–horse relationship. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 109, 124.
IBM Corp 2012. IBM SPSS statistics for Windows. IBM Corp., Armonk, New York, USA.
Kennedy, MJ, Schwabe, AE and Broom, DM 1993. Crib-biting and wind-sucking stereotypies in the horse. Equine Veterinary Education 5, 142147.
Le Scolan, N, Hausberger, M and Wolff, A 1997. Stability over situations in temperamental traits of horses as revealed by experimental and scoring approaches. Behavioural Processes 41, 257266.
McGreevy, PD, Cripps, PJ, French, NP, Green, LE and Nicol, C 1995a. Management factors associated with stereotypic and redirected behaviour in the Thoroughbred horse. Equine Veterinary Journal 27, 8691.
McGreevy, PD, French, NP and Nicol, CJ 1995b. The prevalence of abnormal behaviours in dressage, eventing and endurance horses in relation to stabling. The Veterinary Record 137, 3637.
Mills, DS and Nankervis, KJ 1999. Equine behaviour: principles and practice. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.
Muñoz-Alonzo, LE, Medina Vera, MP, Cruces Leal, J and Briones Luengo, M 2015. Frequency of classic stereotypies in endurance horses. Scientia Agropecuaria 6, 119124.
Neijenhuis, F, De Graaf-Roelfsema, E, Wesselink, H, Van Reenen, C and Visser, EK 2011. Towards a welfare monitoring system for horses in the Netherlands: prevalence of several health matters. Proceedings of 7th International Equitation Science Conference – Equitation Science: Principles and Practice – Science at Work, 27–29 October 2011, Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands, 80pp.
Popescu, S and Diugan, EAA 2013. The relationship between behavioral and other welfare indicators of working horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 33, 112.
Pritchard, JC, Lindberg, AC, Main, DCJ and Whay, HR 2005. Assessment of the welfare of working horses, mules and donkeys, using health and behaviour parameters. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 69, 265283.
Raabymagle, P and Ladewig, J 2006. Lying behavior in horses in relation to box size. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 25, 502504.
Rushen, J, Butterworth, A and Swanson, JC 2011. Animal behavior and well-being symposium. Farm animal welfare assurance: science and application. Journal of Animal Science 89, 12191228.
Swiss Animal Welfare Ordinance 2008. Swiss Animal Welfare Ordinance (TSchV) of 23 April 2008 (position as at 1 April 2011). Retrieved on 11 November 2015 from,lnp6I0NTU042l2Z6ln1ad1IZn4Z2qZpnO2Yuq2Z6gpJCFd3t2fmym162epYbg2c_JjKbNoKSn6A--.
Vervaecke, H, Boydens, M, De Nil, M and Laevens, H 2011. Pilot study on the occurrence of pressure marks on the body and mouth lesions in riding horses in Flanders. In 7th International Equitation Science Conference – equitation science: principles and practice – science at work (ed.. M van Dierendonck, P de Cocq and E Visser), p. 37. Academic Publishers, Wageningen, Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands.
Visser, EK, Neijenhuis, F, de Graaf-Roelfsema, E, Wesselink, HGMH, de Boer, J, van Wijhe-Kiezebrink, MCM, Engel, B and van Reenen, CG 2014. Risk factors associated with health disorders in sport and leisure horses in the Netherlands. Journal of Animal Science 92, 844855.
Watson, T, Murphy, D and Love, S 1992. Equine hyperlipaemia in the United Kingdom: clinical features and blood biochemistry of 18 cases. The Veterinary Record 131, 4851.
Wolff, A, Hausberger, M and Le Scolan, N 1997. Experimental tests to assess emotionality in horses. Behavioural Processes 40, 209221.
World Horse Welfare and Eurogroup for Animals 2015. Removing the blinkers: the health and welfare of European Equidae in 2015. Retrieved on 11 November 2015 from
Wyse, CA, McNie, KA, Tannahill, VJ, Murray, JK and Love, S 2008. Prevalence of obesity in riding horses in Scotland. The Veterinary Record 162, 590591.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed