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Ethical Treatment of Horses

Registration means a commitment to the Athena Herd Foundation Ethos of Ethical Treatment of Horses. These are standards of equine care which build upon Friends, Freedom and Forage as published in The Horse’s Manifesto (2012) by the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (IAABC), and the Five Domains model (2015). The Five Domains represent an update of the Five Freedoms (1965) produced by Professor David Mellor at Massey University in New Zealand, this means that there is a focus on positive experiences for animals, rather than just minimising their exposure to negative ones.

The Five Domains are defined as follows:

DomainProvisionWelfare aim

Ready access to fresh water and a diet that maintains health and vigour.

Minimise thirst and hunger and enable earing to be a pleasurable experience.


Shade, shelter or suitable housing,
good air quality and comfortable
resting areas.

Minimise discomfort and exposure and promote thermal, physical and other comforts

Prevent or rapidly diagnose and treat disease of injury. Foster good muscle tone, posture and cardiorespiratory function.

Minimise breathlessness, nausea, pain and other aversive experiences and promote the pleasures of robustness, vigour, strength and well-coordinated physical activity.


Sufficient space, proper facilities, congenial company and appropriately varied conditions.

Minimise threats and unpleasant restrictions on behaviour and promote engagement in rewarding activities.

Mental state

Safe, congenial and species appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences.

Promote various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control

Definitions based upon reproduction of David Mellor’s work reproduced on

This ethical commitment extends to the handling and treatment of horses during their facilitated interactions with clients and service users. Practitioners are expected to consider and understand the physical and mental health and wellbeing of horse(s) during sessions.

It sets standards around the type of demands made on horses during the sessions, including materials used (such as type of headcollar), the type of exercises undertaken, the duration of interactions, the freedom of the horse to express and within safety constraints choose its intervention, and to be able to return to friends and companions when their work has been completed.


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