Current state of lesson horse welfare in Ontario and best practices for their management

Lead Applicant: Katrina Merkies

Research Priority: Animal Health & Welfare

Program Type: Tier 1

Funding Cycle: 2023/2024

Research Centre: NA

Research Summary: In 2010 over $400 million was spent on riding lessons in Canada with a growing demand. Over 10,000 lesson horses are in use in Ontario. Despite playing a key role, lesson horses are often subject to poor welfare conditions such as overuse, improperly fitted equipment and inadequate turnout. This impacts their mental and physical well-being with downstream financial, health and social consequences for both horses and humans. For this project, a survey of management practices will be followed by live observations of lesson horse facilities to examine the influence of management practices on stress-related behaviours during riding lessons. Lesson horses are the foundation of all areas of the horse industry and play a key role in human physical and mental health. Understanding the current state of active equid welfare in Canada can direct targeted educational efforts to ensure the sustainability of this sector.