All of a domestic horse’s basic needs are determined by our own management practices. These practices may range from horses being kept in a fully managed environment to horses being kept in an environment that is as natural as possible. While basic needs are common to all species, the nature and provision of them is species specific (i.e. different for each species). This means that we have to meet the specific needs that have developed during the course of the evolution of that particular species.
Providing management solutions in the right context ensures that basic needs and the ability to express natural behavior are properly addressed, so our understanding of what constitutes a basic need is essential. How we interpret basic needs and what we provide to meet them is extremely important and directly influences a horse’s entire life: from how he perceives the world, his personality, his emotional state, his interactions, and his responses to what is asked of him.
For us, the choices we make as to how our horses are managed determines whether their basic needs, as an equine species, are being met. Each situation is different and each horse is an individual, and there are a number of management aspects that will benefit from being tailored to address this individuality.
Equine basic needs fall into these categories:
We may use the words ethical and high standards to show a level of care above what might be considered to be the basic level, but we must also remember that ethics and standards are an essential part of meeting the basic needs of equines, not additional extras. For example, we may say we are being ethical by ensuring the horses in our care have turn out time. However, this is a basic need of the equine species, and therefore not an ethical decision. Assessing each aspect of equine management and changing or adjusting to provide basic needs is the future for the welfare of our equine friends.