Increased awareness of equine code sought

Surveys show low use and awareness among horse owners about Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines

Some horses are used to herd cattle. Some do trail riding, show jumping or dressage. Some are ridden for pleasure, others for rodeos and still others are pasture prowlers that see little use.

Diversity within the equine realm makes it difficult to efficiently provide information to all owners, but the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada is taking a stab at it to promote greater awareness about the equine code of practice.

Various surveys conducted over the past five years show low use and awareness among horse owners about the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines, which was developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council.

“The Horse Welfare Alliance did a survey in 2016 and we found about 50 percent of the people were not aware of the code,” said Mikki Shatosky of the HWAC.

“Equine Guelph has also done a survey and there was also a survey out of Atlantic Canada and all the results were very similar. They’re right around the 50 percent mark. And these were the people we could get a hold of in the horse world.”

In response, the Alliance has launched an online training program encompassing a video series that covers the 10 sections in the code, which range from pre-purchase considerations to end of career and euthanasia.

The free program allows people to choose among the topics of interest at their leisure.

There is also an option to take an online course about the code, for a $25 fee, which will test participants and provide a certificate of completion.

Shatosky said the latter option is useful for those in charge of enforcing the code, since they can prove their familiarity with it. It could also be used by 4-H members in horse clubs to show their knowledge and effort.

“We set the price really quite low. It’s $25 just so anyone can complete it. There’s not a cost barrier…. When there’s a bit of a cost and a flow to programming, people tend to go through it and commit to it,” Shatosky added.

The fees will be used to keep the course material current.

Access to the course may also be useful to those considering purchase of a horse because it outlines considerations, costs and requirements for horse care.

“I think it would be a huge tool in that area.”

The videos vary in length from five to 40 minutes, the longer ones for in-depth topics including health management and husbandry. There is also a series of assessment checklists.

“Anyone who has experienced the joys of equine knows it is a great privilege and enduring responsibility,” Shatosky wrote in an earlier news release about the course.

“These are special connections that often last for many years, so it’s important to confirm your practices are keeping pace with evolving care and handling techniques.”

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