Determining a welfare prioritization for horses using a Delphi method

Fiona Rioja-Lang, Melanie Connor, Heather Bacon, CM Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Equine welfare issues are receiving increasing attention in the UK, but welfare problems can arise from a wide range of causes. In order to identify the most important welfare concerns for horses, we used a Delphi method with 19 equine welfare experts. An initial list of 84 equine welfare issues was generated using an online discussion board and NVivo thematic analysis. Subsequently, experts ranked these welfare issues for perceived prevalence, severity and duration of suffering associated with each issue on a 6-point Likert scale. All issues with a mean score of 3 or above (n = 37) were included in subsequent rounds. Finally, a subset of experts attended a two-day workshop to determine the final priority list of welfare issues. The welfare issues perceived to be most prevalent were lack of biosecurity, delayed euthanasia, lack of owner knowledge of equine welfare needs, fear and stress from use, and obesity. The issues considered to cause greatest suffering for individual horses were delayed euthanasia, lack of recognition by owners of pain behaviour, large worm burdens, obesity and being fed unsuitable diets for equine feeding behaviour. These outcomes can help to focus research and education interventions on the most pressing welfare issues for horses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number647
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2020
Publication statusFirst published - 9 Apr 2020


  • Behaviour
  • Delphi method
  • Health
  • Horse
  • Management
  • Nutrition
  • Training
  • Welfare


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