Our approach to animal handling
It's important that people interacting with equine animals have a sufficient level of knowledge, skill and confidence in executing safe and welfare-friendly handling and restraint techniques. We believe equine animals can and should be managed without fear, force or harmful punishment.
Equine animals are prey species and humans are predators. Any human behaviour which is threatening or frightening to the animal will make handling more difficult. We make sure we work efficiently and ensure the animal feels comfortable.
- We speak to animals in a soft, calm voice when handling. Tone matters, not words.
- We move calmly and steadily around the animals and avoid sudden movements.
- We use gentle but firm medium pressure when examining animals or carrying out husbandry tasks.
- We avoid direct eye contact, especially when approaching the animal.
- We remain calm, relaxed, patient and confident.
- We use the minimum amount of people required to carry out a task.
- Finish any interaction with a 'thank you' to the animal.
- We ensure that each individual within a team is aware of their responsibilities - to the animal, the environment. the local community and each other.
- We encourage continuous reflection of any action plan to ensure the benefit to the animal is always clear, and any risks to animals are minimised or eliminated.
- We reinforce the message that people should be prepared mentally and with their equipment before beginning any handling task.
- We ensure our staff are aware of an equine animal's 'danger zones' - the parts of their body which could cause harm to a human. This includes regular observation of the animal's head, teeth, forelimbs, body weight, hind limbs and tail.
Considering welfare risks
- We consider welfare risks to the animal in the surrounding environment before and during handling and try to minimise or eliminate them.
- We consider injury risks: could the animal become injured from something in the surrounding environment?
- We consider comfort: could the animal be experiencing any thermal or physical discomfort?
- We consider emotion: could the animal be experiencing any unpleasant feelings?
Appropriate head restraint
- We advocate removal of head harnessing, carts and packs before veterinary, farriery or other services.
- We use head or rope collars of appropriate size and fit to appropriately and comfortably restrain the animal.
- We ensure staff use minimal restraint and only use increased restraint, such as the use of a twitch, for justified reasons.
Use of behaviour modification techniques in challenging behaviour cases
- We explain that equine behaviours that present challenges to humans are not usually abnormal, but are normal behaviours based on the animal's natural instincts.
- We aim to give the animal a positive experience by adapting our behaviour and handling response to suit different animals and situations.
- We use environmental modification, desensitisation and reinforcement techniques when working with a challenging animal.
- We seek alternative approaches if the animal continues to struggle.
- We will help owners learn about equine behaviour, and handing techniques they can do at home to help reduce their animal's discomfort during husbandry, veterinary, farriery or other tasks, which also contributes to improved human-animal relationships.
We proudly integrate welfare-friendly handling and restraint into all of our activities, and we hope this approach becomes routine with all of our stakeholders.