Animal Welfare Research Needs for Equine

Following is a list of research priorities gaps identified during the equine Code development process. Click here to visit the equine Code web page for the Scientific Committee report and to view the full Code.

List compiled: 2013

Space allowance

  • appropriate stocking densities for horses in pastures, yards, indoor group housing etc.
  • ideal stall sizes as it relates to horse behaviour, including for foaling (SC Report, p. 10).

Stocking density for feedlot horses

  • despite the large number of horses that are part of the horse processing industry, there is a scarcity of information in the refereed literature on feedlot horses especially as it relates to stocking densities. Some specific areas of study could include: the impact of muddy conditions on the welfare of horses in feedlots; behaviour of horses in feedlot pens; and current stocking densities in feedlots (SC Report, p. 52-55).

Air quality

  • study tracking airway health of equines with long-term exposure to low, medium and high concentration to ammonia.

Stereotypic behaviour

  • whether artificial remedies to prevent the performance of stereotypies cause harm as horses may experience higher levels of frustration, rebound activity or redirected activity (SC Report, p. 15)
  • more studies to better understand management of the stereotypic horse.

Thermal impacts on nutritional and energy needs

  • research studying the impact of high ambient temperatures on feed intake (SC Report, p. 49).


  • epidemiological or survey type data stating how many “horse use” days are lost to bouts of lameness; the most common types of lameness for various classifications of horses; how much “horse wastage” relates to low-level but chronic lameness. Note: currently, most research on equine lameness focuses on race horses.


  • the priority area is research and development of non-invasive visible and/or easily readable methods of identification
  • until such time as the first bullet point can be achieved, more studies are needed to better determine whether freeze branding is less aversive than hot iron branding (there is only limited research on this for equines)
  • effective and practical pain control protocols for identification methods.

Tail docking

  • whether tail docking is needed for safety reasons (e.g., efficacy of alternatives to tail docking; factors associated with accidents in driving competitions; in countries where tail docking is prohibited, are we seeing a change in the number of accidents?).

Equine castration

  • more research is needed on methods of controlling pain and avoiding complications
  • more work on castration in donkeys
  • possibly more work comparing castration and pain control at different ages.

Snow as a water source for equines

  • controlled studies to better determine whether snow can be a sufficient sole water source for horses in the winter months (SC Report, p. 43-44).

Following is a list of additional priority research needs that were identified by the Code Technical Panel during the 5-year review of the equine Code.

List compiled: October 2018

  • The need for physical indicators of pain and distress in equines that can be used to make outcome-based assessments during sport and training, and within in a management system.