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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:

Nutrition: Ready access to fresh water and a diet that maintains health and vigour. Minimising thirst and hunger and enabling eating to be a pleasurable experience.

Environment: Shade, shelter or suitable housing, good air quality and comfortable resting areas. Minimising discomfort and exposure and promoting thermal, physical and other comforts.

Health: Prevent or rapidly diagnose and treat disease of injury. Foster good muscle tone, posture and cardiorespiratory function. Minimising breathlessness, nausea, pain and other aversive experiences and promoting the pleasures of robustness, vigour, strength and well-coordinated physical activity.

Behaviour: Sufficient space, proper facilities, congenial company and appropriately varied conditions. Minimising threats and unpleasant restrictions on behaviour and promote engagement in rewarding activities. This includes creating environments that foster the opportunities to engage in species-appropriate social behaviours and engagement, this also extend to engagements with humans.

Mental Health: Safe, congenial and species appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences. Promotes various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control. Most importantly this last domain acknowledges the importance of domains one to four in facilitating stats of subjective states of mental wellbeing.

Creating the appropriate interactive space

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.

The Register also acknowledges the important work undertaken by the International Association of Human-Animal Interactions Organisations in establishing a framework that “provides best practice guidance for meeting the care, training and welfare requirements for equines involved in delivering equine-assisted services.”

The Register sets out to ensure that standards are maintained in terms of the type of demands made on horses during the sessions, including materials used (such as type of headcollar and other tools of training and control), 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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