Date of Award

Winter 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural Education

First Advisor

Colleen Brady

Committee Chair

Colleen Brady

Committee Member 1

Abigail Borron

Committee Member 2

Kristina Hiney

Committee Member 3

Mark Russell

Committee Member 4

Jennifer Richardson


In recent years there has been an increase in the public's attention to situations where trainers, owners, and handlers have compromised the well-being of show horses for the sake of winning. These situations may be due to training negligence or naivety of individuals working with the horse. Either way, due to these incidents, increasing pressure has been placed on the horse industry to address show horse welfare. The purpose of this research was to expound on the welfare of stock-type show horses through the perspective of those directly involved; considering the understanding of welfare, the value placed on welfare, and ethical and mooral decisions that impact the welfare of stock-type show horses. ^ Chapter 3 presents a study on the viewpoints of horse show officials. The purpose of this first study was to gain a better understanding of horse show officials' views on compromises to horse welfare. Thirteen horse show officials, including judges, stewards and show managers, were interviewed. Findings revealed the officials had an incomplete understanding of animal welfare and a high level of concern regarding the public's perception of show horse welfare. Most frequently observed compromises to show horse welfare were attributed to a) novices', amateurs', and young trainers' lack of experience or expertise and b) trainers' and owners' unrealistic expectations and prioritization of winning over horse welfare. The officials emphasized a need for distribution of responsibility among associations, officials, and individuals within the industry. ^ Chapter 4 presents a study on horse show competitors' understanding, awareness, and perceptions of horse welfare. The purpose of this second study was not only to gain a better understanding of stock-type horse show competitors understanding of welfare and level of concern for stock-type show horses' welfare, but also to gain a better understanding of empathic traits related to the perception of understanding of horse welfare. The participants of this study were competitors of stock-type horse shows within the United States, which included individuals who competed at stock-type breed shows, open shows, and reining competitions. Data were collected through an online questionnaire, which included questions relating to (a) interest and general understanding of horse welfare, (b) welfare concerns in the horse show industry as a whole, and specifically the stock-type horse show industry, (c) decision-making influences, and (d) level of empathic characteristics in survey participants. Findings revealed a high level of interest about the topic of show horse care and treatment. The vast majority of respondents indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that physical metrics should be a factor when assessing horse welfare while fewer agreed behavioral and mental metrics should be a factor of assessment. Overall respondent empathy levels were moderate to high and were positively correlated to the belief that mental and behavioral metrics should be a factor of assessing horse welfare. Participants had the greatest concern about horse welfare for the saddle-type horse show industry, and nearly half respondents indicated a high level of concern for the welfare of stock-type show horses. ^ Chapter 5 presents a study on understanding and addressing show horse industry legitimacy. The purpose of this third study was to use the Social Cognitive Theory and its moral disengagement framework to emphasize the need for stock-type horse associations to minimize potential and actual threats to their legitimacy in an effort to maintain and strengthen self-regulating governance, specifically relating to the occurrence of inhumane treatment to horses. Despite having stated rules within their handbooks, the actions of leading stock-type associations in response to reports of inhumane treatment provide evidence of their ability to self-regulate. ^ The findings from the three studies informed the design of an educational e-learning course and a model for understanding and influencing behaviors related to the care and treatment of show horses. The design of the e-learning course is presented in Chapter 6 and was based on the theories and principles discussed in Chapter 2 and the findings from Chapters 3, 4, and 5. The ARCS Motivational Design Model was used to guide the process and ensure integration of appropriate motivational tactics with the instructional components. The intent of the course was to address the educational needs which emerged from the findings of Chapters 3, 4, and 5. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)