Care and Welfare, what is the difference? 

As horse owners we have an incredibly large responsibility to ensure our horse is always at its happiest and healthiest. There are many activities we do to achieve this on a daily basis, predominantly revolving around their physical needs. However, as we continue to learn more and more about horses and their cognitive function, have you considered that you are taking care of their mental needs as well?  

These concepts can be broadly described as providing our horses with their care needs, and their welfare needs.  

What is the difference?  

Providing our horse with good care refers to meeting the needs of their physical health status, where as Welfare is encompassing of their mental needs.  

The 5 Freedoms 

“The 5 Freedoms” is an internationally recognised model of animal welfare standards. It was the first evidence based and scientifically accepted strategy to measure the provision of welfare across all animals, and as a matter of fact “living beings” and has since been adopted by the likes of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, organisations such as the RSPCA, and enshrined in Animal Protection Law.  

The 5 Freedoms are 

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst 
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress 
  • Freedom from Discomfort 
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease 
  • Freedom to express normal behaviours 

In providing our animals with these “freedoms” we are described as providing them with their basic welfare and care needs.  

How do we apply it to horses?  

Whilst some freedoms are quite universal across different species, such as “Freedom from Hunger and Thirst”, there is of course individual applications made to specific animals. Let’s break it down and check off how they may apply for our equine companions! 

Freedom from Hunger and Thirst  

  • Do our horses have a supply of fresh, clean water available at all times? 
  • Do we provide our horses with sufficient feed to keep them nourished, meet their nutritional needs (which fluctuate with workload, age and breeding status), sustain a healthy weight and meet their digestive system demands?  

Freedom from Fear and Distress 

  • Do we provide our horses an environment where they feel safe?  
  • In situations where they are fearful or distressed, what management tools do I have to help resolve this and make them feel relaxed again? 

Freedom from Discomfort  

  • Are our horses in any physical or mental discomfort?  
  • Does the environment they are in provide a reason for discomfort (e.g. unsuitable ground, lack of shade, lack of companions)  
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury, Disease 
  • Does slightly overlap with discomfort!  
  • Do our horses exhibit any signs of short term or long-term pain? How can we resolve this to reduce the pain? 
  • Does our horse suffer from any injuries? If so, how can we treat it to promote healing and reduce pain as much as possible? 
  • Does our horse suffer from any diseases? If so, how can we treat it to promote healing and reduce pain as much as possible? Have we used the adequate tools, such as vaccination or biosecurity protocol to risk manage and prevent it happening again in the future?  

Freedom to express natural behaviours.

This can be broken down into 4 subcategories for horses 

  1. Foraging Needs: Horses are animals that have evolved with a need to be constantly foraging. This is why roughage is such a critical part of their ration! Not only should horses have an adequate supply of roughage, for those that are stabled, or have restricted pasture access, the timing is also very important. A horse has evolved to graze for over 13 hours a day, thus in order to fulfil this welfare need, it is important that we consider the level and duration of access our horses have. It could be as simple as splitting your horses meal up from once a day, to twice or three times! Providing your hard feed, and then hay a couple of hours later is another example and simple practice to help meet this extended foraging time. Providing these needs not only benefits mental welfare, but also has great benefits to their digestive health! 
  2. Movement Needs: Horses never spend much time in “the wild” standing still- as they fulfil their foraging needs, they are gaining some very high step counts! It is important that our horses have the ability to move around in sizeable yards or alternatively, are given adequate daily exercise to fulfil their movement needs. Doing so can potentially reduce the risk of stereotypies such as fence walking and stable weaving.  
  3. Social Needs: Horses are natural herd animals, and much prefer company to isolation. Whilst in some settings it may not be practical to have two or more horses in the same yard (and especially stable!) it is best practice to keep them within close proximity’s so that they still feel ‘together’- for example, having see through top doors on stables, having stables/yards side by side, or directly across one another so that they can see each other.  
  4. Communication and Mental Stimulation: Have you ever had the feeling of being unmotivated or unwilling to do something because of the fear of getting it wrong, or it just feels too complicated? Our horses can have these feelings, especially when it comes to training. Ineffective and inconsistent communication of aids can cause confusion and conflicting behaviours. Lack of reward can become unmotivating, as can doing the same thing day-in-day-out! Providing stimulation by mixing up training with different environments or different activities is a great way to break the monotony!  


In providing these welfare concepts, in the many forms they take to execute, we can strive to fulfil our horses needs by providing them great care, and welfare.  


Product categories

Experts in Equine Nutrition

Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.

Contact Us