Multidisciplinary approach to horse welfare in different management systems

Marliani, Giovanna (2023) Multidisciplinary approach to horse welfare in different management systems, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze veterinarie, 34 Ciclo.
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From its domestication until nowadays, the horse has assumed multiple roles in human society. Over time, this condition and the lack of specific regulation have led to the development of different kinds of management systems for this species. This Ph.D. research project aims to investigate horses' welfare in different management practices and housing systems, considering a multidisciplinary approach, taking into account biological function, naturalness, and affective dimension. The results are presented in five articles that evidence risk factors that can mine horse welfare, and examine tools and parameters that can be employed for its assessment. Our research shows the importance of considering the evolutionary history and the species-specific and behavioural needs of horses in their management and housing. Sociality, free movement, diet composition and foraging routine, and the workload that these animals undergo are important factors that should be taken into account. Furthermore, this research has evidenced the importance of employing different parameters (e.g., behaviour, endocrinological parameters, and immune activity) in welfare assessment and proposes the use of horsehair DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) as a possible useful additional non-invasive measure for the investigation of long-term stress conditions. Finally, our results underline the importance of considering the affective dimension in welfare research. Recently, Judgement Bias Tests (JBT), which are based on the influence of affective states on the decision-making process, have been widely employed in animal welfare research. However, our studies show that the use of spatial JBT in horses can have some limitations. Still today several management systems do not fulfill species-specific needs of horses, thus the implementation of specific regulations could ameliorate horse welfare. A multidisciplinary approach to welfare assessment is fundamental, but it should be always remembered the individual and its own characteristics, which can influence not only physiological, immunological, and behavioural responses but also emotional and cognitive dimensions.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Marliani, Giovanna
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Equus caballus; Welfare; Cortisol; Behaviour; Dehydroepiandrosterone; Judgement Bias Test
Data di discussione
30 Marzo 2023

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