Owners consider equine companionship an important part of horse welfare, but are they paying enough attention to the composition of the groups?
A study published this week in the journal Animals explores how the make-up of groups affects the welfare of horses kept at pasture, finding that certain combinations create higher aggression levels.
“By nature, horses are highly social animals, depending on the group for survival,” University of Iceland researchers Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir and Hans Haraldsson said.
The social nature of horses meant they needed plenty of opportunities to interact to form bonds and learn from their elders, they said.
“Social bonds are likely to play an important role for social cohesion in group-living domestic horses.”
Therefore, management practices that minimized aggression and gave the horses ample opportunities to socially and emotionally bond are to be recommended.