Equine Welfare Standards for Providers of Equine Assisted Services (EAS)

The NEWC Code of Practice and Member Standards

The National Equine Welfare Council in collaboration with The Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) has developed a code of practice for providers of EAS to protect and enhance the welfare of participating equines. The following code includes the NEWC member standards for EAS providers, which is underpinned by the general principle that all equines should be managed in a way that satisfies their species-specific needs. Further details relating to specific aspects of equine management can be found in the full list of NEWC member standards.

NEWC promotes registration with HEIR to all NEWC members involved in the provision of EAS. The Equine Assisted Services Partnership manages the Human Equine Interaction Register (HEIR) which serves the EAS provider and trainer community to ensure that minimum standards for equine welfare are applied alongside good governance, service user involvement and measured outcomes. NEWC will promote HEIR registration to all new NEWC EAS applicants to align best practice standards for both humans and equines.

All equines must be managed in a way that provides them with adequate access to friends, freedom, and forage. Exposure to potentially aversive experiences should be avoided where possible and an evidence-based approach to the interpretation of equine behavioural responses adopted. Both experiential and scientific evidence relating to behavioural needs and behavioural responses should be considered. This is an evolving area which will be reviewed and updated as required.

All practitioners are expected to reflect on the potential impact that EAS sessions have on equine welfare, and most importantly, how behavioural responses (or lack thereof) are indicative of equine subjective experience. The following standards were developed for application across all modalities of EAS. In addition, a written policy/procedure that relates to the specific modality of EAS practised by the organisation (including ridden and driven sessions) is required, to ensure that the welfare of the participating equines is not compromised during the sessions.

NEWC Member Standards for EAS

1. Provision of a suitable environment for conducting Equine Assisted (EA) sessions

2. Selection of equine participants for inclusion in Equine Assisted (EA) sessions

3. Preparation of Equines

4. Monitoring Equine Behaviour during sessions

5. Monitoring Equine Behaviour pre- and post-session

6. Length and frequency of Equine Assisted (EA) sessions

In addition to the NEWC member standards for EAS, and the specific standards for the modality of EAS provided, international guidelines on care, training, and welfare requirements for equines in equine-assisted services are available. The IAHAIO international guidelines provide further best practice guidance for meeting the care, training and welfare requirements for equines involved in delivering equine-assisted services. These are based on a review of evidence of current best practices and research, which is reviewed every two years. 

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