Equine Welfare

PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee Equine Tips

The PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee encourages positive and engaging educational exploration from our readers - we'd love to hear your feedback! Please let us know if you have any questions about our tip or have a suggestion about specific topics you would be interested in learning more about in the future. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee chair. Thank you!

Please join us on Community Connections!  
We invite you to participate in lively, thought-provoking, and sometimes controversial discussions on the online PATH Intl. Equine Welfare community group. No matter your specific interests (EFP, therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, carriage driving, interactive vaulting, etc.), they ALL involve working with equine partners. This is the resource for all PATH Intl. members to exchange ideas, ask questions, offer comments and suggestions, and “pick the brains” of some of our industry’s most experienced and qualified people. Click here to access the Equine Welfare Community group. You will need to be logged in. If you have any questions about joining the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Community group, please email the moderator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Monthly Webinars
The PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee is hosting monthly webinars on Equine Care & Welfare for Therapy Horses. Please join us! You can find dates for these webinars on the PATH Intl. website and in the PATH Intl. eNews. To sign up for the webinars, log in to the PATH Intl. website and go to the PATH Intl. online Store then “purchase” the webinar (at no cost!) and you will be sent an email with information on how to sign in to the webinar you “purchased.” Please note: There are a limited number of attendee spaces available for each webinar, so if you do not see the monthly webinar you wish to “purchase” listed in the store, this means that particular webinar is full.

Benefits of Conference

Cathy Languerand, PATH Intl. Equine welfare Committee Chair

It was a nine hour drive to Cleveland, Ohio, a great time to think and plan (on the way out) and reflect (on the way back) on my reasons for attending this year’s PATH Intl. Conference. I went to share the work of our Equine Welfare Committee on emotional well-being for equines. Collectively, two committee members and I (we had never met in person until the presentation) shared our PowerPoint presentation. We all practiced together reading, exploring and examining cultures that produce optimal health and cultures that produce stress. We will soon have this PowerPoint available on the PATH Intl. website. In addition I planned on meeting others who are involved in partnering with horses in our bodies, in our minds, and from our hearts. If you were in Ohio for the conference you saw what this looks like! Through research, videos, PowerPoints, stories, and hands on with the horses, we all shared this connection of body, mind and spirit with ourselves, our horses, and each other.

It was inspirational and motivated a renewed commitment to the “path” of therapy and healing that our horses are giving use both individually and as a group. This collective gathering of our knowledge, energy and intention is very powerful, even synergistic. We immersed ourselves in this energy for four days. I was able to sit in and listen to several members of the Equine Welfare Committee, both past and present, as they shared their work and wisdom. Very awesome! Key note speaker Jackie Stevenson was a high point for me. Jackie also did an equine session at Saturday’s Horse Expo that was wonderful. Jackie invited everyone at the session to collectively or individually share with the four horses in the indoor an intention from the heart. This connection from the heart was both seen and felt by all who chose to participate.

This same connected awareness was present during every session I attended.

From Healing for Veterans to the Wisdom of Donkeys
From benefits of play to effects of trauma
From mentoring others to discussions with peers

As a Center Program Director and PATH Intl. Certified Instructor I work with horses and humans daily. As a Reiki Master I work with energy daily. As an observer at this year’s conference I was able to see, hear, and feel from my heart everyone reaching out from their hearts, connecting to this collective wisdom that is both Horse and Human within the powerful container of PATH Intl.

My “Tip” from the Horses: connect from your heart.

From my heart to yours,
Cathy Languerand
PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee Chair

10 Ways to Use PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee’s Guidelines for Equines in Therapeutic Horsemanship Programs

By Jayna Wekenman, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

Guidelines for Equines in Therapeutic Horsemanship Programs was created as a resource for PATH Intl. members, PATH Intl. centers, and others. Care and Welfare for Therapy Horses is a presentation and webinar accompanying this document. Both are readily available through the website (Home -- Education -- Industry Links -- Equine Welfare) or at: http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/equine-welfare.

The following offers 10 ways in which the Guidelines and presentation can be utilized as a resource. Please share your comments and more ideas in the Equine Welfare Community on Community Connections.    

  1. Both resources were created in collaboration with AAEP (American Association Equine Practitioners) which is comprised of (mostly) veterinarians working to improve the health and welfare of the horse throughout the equine industry. The presentation suggests benefits to veterinarians of being involved with PATH Intl. centers. These resources can be used in educating veterinarians and/or veterinarian students about PATH Intl. and PATH Intl. programs.  
  2. Similar to the benefits suggested for veterinarians, collaboration with PATH Intl. members and centers can be beneficial for equine products and services. These resources can be used as a tool for laying out these benefits when eliciting sponsorships of equine products and services. Furthermore, these resources can be a tool in aligning goals of collaboration i.e. defining fitness of equines, amenities of barn and program areas, etc etc.
  3. Use both when training volunteers and staff.
  4. Using the Guidelines to help define your program’s preventative maintenance for equine health and roles of individual people within the equine welfare team.
  5. Develop a checklist (or use the example) to gather information for evaluation and documentation of equine health and wellbeing. Include weight, concerns, current feed, laminitis checks, and more. Then, host Equine Welfare Days with veterinarians, staff, volunteers, participants, and public to collect data for each individual equine.
  6. Host an Equine Education Day for public, kids, and potential participants. Both resources include easy-to-use pictures and info that can be used.  
  7. Definitions and language used throughout each resource regarding equine welfare can be used in creating a common language for discussions amongst staff and volunteers of programs and the larger PATH Intl. membership on Community Connections.
  8. Create conversations regarding behavioral concerns of program horses amongst program personnel and participants. Use the Attitude vs Pain slide amongst others. Many of these conversations can be processed for learning outcomes in EAL and EAMH.
  9. These resources can serve other equines, barns, participants, and professionals in the non-PATH Intl. equine industry, too.
  10. Print the Guidelines for Equines in Therapeutic Horsemanship Programs off and use it as a manual for day-to-day operations. Keep it accessible.

What to Do if Your Horse Is Stolen!

by Molly Sweeney, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee Member

The best thing you can do before your horse is stolen is take precautions NOW to help prevent horse theft from ever happening. Extensive information is available from Stolen Horse International at www.NetPossee.com. More information can be found in the book, Horse Theft, Been There-Done That by Stolen Horse International’s founder, Debi Metcalfe. All her material is under copyright, so the following tips will be minimally basic. The website and book will give you comprehensive prevention tips and guide you in making a search and recovery action plan. You will also learn when horse theft is a civil case and when it is a criminal case and what that difference means to you and your horse.

Prevention: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Document, document, document
  • Photograph, photograph, photograph
  • Be aware of pitfalls in horse donations, leases and sales, and always have legal signed papers to protect everyone and the horse in these transactions
  • Security at all times. From NetPosse you can buy a W.H.O.A. sign, WARNING: HORSE OWNER AWARENESS, Horses and Equipment Have Permanent Identification.
  • Have a crisis team and a trained network in place to call into immediate action if a theft does happen.
  • Make an action plan including a list of people to contact and places to go in person

Search Action Plan:

  • Take immediate action. Time is of the essence in horse theft cases.
  • Get the facts of the theft
  • Call appropriate Law Enforcement Agencies and Livestock Units for your city, state and/or county
  • File a report with Stolen Horse International through www.NetPosse.com
  • Determine the Reward offered
  • Create a flyer with all the horse’s information and photo and post it ASAP in every public place and on all the social media you can think of
  • Go in person to horse auctions and notify equine slaughter facilities. Presently (September 2015) Congress has voted to not fund horse inspections, effectively banning equine slaughter facilities in the USA. Equine slaughter facilities still operate in Canada and Mexico. Check annually to see if any have opened in the USA.
  • On a daily basis, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
  • Keep a record of all actions, calls and any correspondence
  • Don’t give up!


  • Have all documents with you to prove ownership
  • Never go alone
  • Prosecute as much as you can under the law. Often the value of the stolen item determines whether it is a misdemeanor or prosecutable felony. Check your state laws so you can declare the appropriate value of your horse. In Texas it is now $2500.

Having a plan and the ability to take IMMEDIATE action will go a long way toward a successful recovery.

Face Value: Equine expressions defined through EquiFACS

Christina Russell, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

Professionals who work with horses have long understood that horses communicate through body language, vocalizations and facial expressions. This often may be one of the first lessons we teach our students and volunteers in order for them to better understand how to safely work around horses. Many participants in EAAT programing enjoy learning how to read a horse’s head position, ears and eyes to determine if they are frightened, calm or curious. For children, understanding the swish of a tail or a pair of pinned ears can feel like clues to understand a secret and often times silent language.

Horses are highly social animals who have a clear organizational structure and relationships within their herd, similar to many other mammal species. Communication is a key element to maintain these relationships, but there is also typically a focus on the whole head and body of the horse as opposed to specific facial expressions.

A recent research project from the University of Sussex (Jean Wathan, Anne M. Burrows, Bridget M. Waller, Karen McComb) descends deeper into the subtleties of equine communication. A new system referred to as EquiFACS (Facial Action Coding System) has been designed to identify and record all possible facial expressions in horses based on the underlying facial musculature and movement. This type of facial coding system is not new and has long been used in behavioral and physiological settings for humans. Facial coding systems have also been adapted for primates and other domestic animals.

EquiFACS is the first system designed specifically for equines. This system identifies the muscles or muscle groups which may move to create an expression, as well as the type of movement. This standardized approach makes it possible for observers to record expressions without the emotional bias or interpretations people often assign facial expressions.

Most of the existing research on equine communication has been focused on expressions found in one particular context. The observations for this project were made by observing 15 hours of video footage that captures a variety of naturally occurring behaviors in 86 different horses. There were 17 facial actions identified and recorded as opposed to 27 in humans. The facial actions were divided into Upper Face Actions, Lower Face Actions and Ear Movement Descriptors. Any of the equine expressions which were seen similarly in humans were also specified, as well as possible combinations of the specific face actions.

The creation of the anatomically based EquiFACS system will be instrumental in furthering research on equine communication. This tool will make it possible to record consistent horse facial expressions in any context as well as make comparisons to other species. This will only further the understanding of equine communication and strengthen efforts to improve welfare for domestic horses.

To view the full article and findings:

Grooming: Building a Connection

By Marcie Ehrman, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

During our monthly equine welfare committee conference call, I agreed to write a “Tips” article on flies. I actually did start writing the article. And then, while grooming my pony, I began to think about the meaning of the words, “grooming as ceremony,” one of the topics we discussed in a planning session for our presentation at the International Conference. No spoiler alert here – it just made me think about the enormous value of spending time observing, bonding & connecting with your horse while engaged in the seemingly ordinary task of grooming.

Starting out, observe your horse’s demeanor and his mood. Is he attentive or distracted, relaxed or tense? Allow all your senses to partake in the experience – (well, maybe not taste!). Really see him – focus large and take in the whole vision of him; then focus in and observe his hair coat, his muscling, the contours of his feet – every minute detail. Pay attention to his eyes, his ears, his jaw set, his mouth and lips. Watch the movement of his tail. Observe his breathing – is it fast or slow, deep or shallow, regular or irregular, and does it change during the grooming session? Notice his stance – does he tend to cock one hind leg more than another? Does he prefer standing with one particular leg forward or back? Does he lower his head as grooming progresses? Have you found his “lippy spots” (those places that feel so good when brushed or curried that his upper lip will move as if he is offering to return the favor)? Play with using minimal gesture, words and touch to ask him to pick up each foot. Refine these over time – you will probably find him offering you his feet (in sequence) with just a light touch or even a word or signal. Work toward using ever more subtle cues to ask him to lower his head, back up or step sideways. Observe & feel his legs – familiarize yourself with the muscle, bone and joint structures, the ridges and hollows. Use your hands to feel for any swellings, lumps, bumps or temperature changes as you move them down his legs and around his hooves.  Breathe in his smell, listen to him inhale & exhale and enjoy the rumbling of his gut sounds. Mentally check in with him periodically throughout the grooming session; learn to recognize any changes in demeanor and degree of relaxation, whether obvious or subtle. Allow yourself to feel very present with him.

So next time you pick up a curry comb or body brush – really “tune in” to your horse, and transform a routine task into a truly bonding experience.

Please share your experiences “tuning in to your horse” at PATH Intl. community connections page.




equisure headercrop

Therapeutic RidingTherapeutic DrivingInteractive VaultingEquine Services for HeroesEFP-EFL

Additional Sponsors

AdequanEQUUS FoundationMarkel Insurance CompanyCavalloRIDE TV