Freedom from hunger and thirstFreedom from discomfortFreedom from pain, injury, or diseaseFreedom to express normal behaviorFreedom from fear and distress
As Temple Grandin points out, much of our industrialized approach to producing meat, milk and eggs falls woefully short on most of these counts, sometimes in ways that are truly appalling, and even in the case of pets, or pleasure animals like horses, things we do with or to them may fall short as well. She also points out that avoiding animal abuses by workers in farms, feedlots and slaughterhouses isn't just a matter of training workers to use non-abusive practices, it's also a question of how the workers are treated on the job and it's the responsibility of management to set and enforce standards - to manage. Serious abuses happen when management lets "bad become normal".
A couple of quotes to set the stage:
I believe that the best way to create good living conditions for any animal, whether it's a captive animal living in a zoo, a farm animal, or a pet, is to base animal welfare programs on the core emotion systems in the brain. My theory is that the environment animals live in should activate their positive emotions as much as possible, and not activate their negative emotions any more than necessary. If we get the animal's emotions right, we will have fewer problem behaviors. (p. 3). . . usually . . . the more freedom you give an animal to act naturally, the better, because normal behaviors evolved to satisfy the core emotions . . . . But if you can't give the animal the freedom to act naturally, then you should think about how to satisfy the emotion that motivates the behavior by giving the animal other things to do. Focus on the emotion, not the behavior. (pp. 3-4)
She then sets out the basic emotions - and yes, there's no doubt in her mind that animals, all animals, feel all these emotions:
Positive - lust (reproduction), care (maternal and caretaking), and most importantly for animal welfare, play, and seeking (starting with the orienting response [you know - when your horse stops and stares and decides whether to explore further or bolt]), and including searching and investigating the environment.Negative - rage (to escape a perceived predator or entrapment; frustration is a milder form of rage due to physical constraint), fear, and panic (when social attachment is disrupted - think herd-boundness or barn-sour behaviors in horses).
She states that 18.4% of horses exhibit some sort of stereotypic behavior, and since they're grazing animals, these behaviors are often oral - think cribbing, wood chewing, mouthing objects - and are sometimes movement-related - weaving or pacing in the stall or along a fence line. She says that these behaviors indicate that the animal is suffering some sort of distress right now, has suffered in the past and the brain developed in a way that the stereotypic behavior persists (there is certainly a genetic component), or the animal is using the behavior as a way to cope with the stresses of the environment. I found this very interesting, as we have had several horses come to our barn with stereotypic behaviors, and the behaviors have become less or disappeared entirely.
Her basic rule to create good mental welfare for animals:
Don't stimulate rage, fear and panic if you can help it, and do stimulate seeking and also play. Provide environments that will keep the animal occupied and prevent the development of stereotypies. (p. 23)
She has a substantial section on horses. She debunks the theory that we often find in the horse-training world that horses cannot transfer information from one eye, and one side of the brain, to the other. They do transfer information and have the neurological structures to do it - the reason a horse may spook when encountering an object from the other side is that the object looks different, and horses don't generalize all that well - they respond to the specifics of the object, and we all know about how horses react to something, even something very small, that is out of place or slightly different from what it has been. (For example, sometimes late in summer the milkweed plants get heavy and bend down over the trails - my Maisie finds this very alarming!)
She says that fear memories in horses have two main causes - an abusive experience, or having a new thing or situation introduced too quickly. She also has an interesting insight into why some horses may tend to buck at the transition from the trot to the canter - it's because the saddle moves differently on their bodies, and they find the change alarming!
Since horses are high-fear, high-flight animals, yelling at them will almost always be a problem. And she thinks people are often not very clued in to what is motivating certain behaviors:
A common mistake people make is mixing up fear and aggression. Most behavior problems that occur during handling, veterinary procedures, loading and riding are caused by fear or pain - not aggression. The worst thing that can be done to a frightened horse is to punish him by hitting or yelling. Frightening or painful punishment makes fear worse. (p. 115)
Punishment can also shut down the horse's innate ability to solve problems that are presented to it.
She has some positive things to say about the use of clicker training - it turns on the positive seeking and problem-solving system, teaches emotional self-control and in fact it's not the reward itself but the anticipation of the reward - the interval between the click and the reward - that is the most pleasurable part for the horse.
She has some good insights on how to present new objects and situations to horses:
When you're working with animals, novelty can be attractive or scary depending on how it is presented. The single most important factor determining whether a new thing is more interesting than scary is whether the animal has control over whether to approach the object. Animals are terrified by forced novelty. (p. 147)
And there are sections on cats, dogs, cow, pigs, chickens and zoo animals - it's all fascinating stuff. Her perspectives on animal behavior and animal emotions are full of insights, and she credits part of this to her autism, where pictures and details are much more important than language. This is a valuable book, and has many useful insights for all who have or work with animals, including horses.