Protected: Equine Welfare Assessment Training – March 2024

Mar 4 – Mar 31

1 week

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  • This course closed on 03/31/2024.

Welcome to the Equine Welfare Assessment Training Program, offered by Equine Guelph at the University of Guelph! 

This is an introductory training program for those involved in equine welfare assessment.  This may include animal welfare officers/humane society staff, investigators or constables, bylaw officers, official welfare officers for associations or competitions, first responders, veterinarians or vet technicians, or those who want to develop knowledge and expertise in welfare assessment for facility management/operations, coaching, consulting, or other related functions. 

This is a specific “assessment” course for the welfare of horses including welfare investigators, first responders, welfare officers and others interested in developing skills for assessment.  Equine Guelph also has a co-requisite course that provides information on the Equine Code of Practice (which has the national recommended standards), called Care and Welfare that is available on that may be of interest as a companion course to this one and an opportunity to further your knowledge. 

The goal of this course is to help you develop knowledge needed for equine welfare assessment and to understand important concepts about equine welfare such as common issues, differentiating between dire emergency situations and longer-term remediation of problems, and the role of the Equine Code of Practice for assessment.  It will help prepare the welfare investigations officer/personnel with the tools and knowledge needed for evaluation of the horse and its welfare based on standards developed in the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines.

During this course, you will learn about an overview of the horse industry and many of the common concerns and welfare situations.  You will be introduced to assessment procedures such as Body Condition Scoring and Lameness.  You will investigate and use the Canadian Equine Code of Practice to learn the recommended and minimum standards that have been set out in the Code of Practice.  Assignments will help you learn to use that document for investigations, assessments, and pathways of remediation or resolution.  This is a blended model program that will include online modules and live and recorded webinars/lectures, reading materials, digital interactive learning objects, guest speakers/specialists, quizzes, facilitated discussions and may also include group projects/presentations.  There will be extra resources provided for students who want to go deeper in the equine welfare issues and their impact on the horse.  These resources will also help you discuss issues with horse owners and use evidence-based information as part of those discussions.  Course readings (e-manual and Code of Practice) will be assigned prior to each day of the course.

Course Level Learning Outcomes:

The goal of the course is to help you understand important concepts about Equine Welfare Assessment.

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Review the Equine Code of Practice and explain and describe how to apply the minimum standards of the Equine Code of Practice.
  2. Discuss the use and application of the Equine Code of Practice for welfare assessment
  3. Describe the observations that lead to a “Stop Light” Decision process and steps for response based on assessment.
  4. Identify current challenges with specific Code requirements and how to assess the need for welfare-based intervention, with deeper understanding using evidence-based resources and expertise for effectives on-farm assessment of horses.
  5. Participate and lead discussions with peers on topics presented for class participation.

picture of Instructor and horseGayle Ecker, Hon. B.A., B.Ed., M.Sc., Cert. KMb 

Director of Equine Guelph; Welfare Educator/Trainer; Associate Faculty of Campbell Centre for Study of Animal Welfare, University of Guelph 

As Director of Equine Guelph, Ecker develops the education programs for the horse industry in Ontario and beyond using a variety of platforms best suited for the audience.  Programs include over 20 online evidence-based courses in horse care, welfare and management, along with business courses.  Ecker partners with CCSAW on the new Equine Welfare Certificate program from the University of Guelph and with OSPCA on several other initiatives.  She has been involved in riding, owning, breeding and showing horses in various sectors of the horse industry, and has owned her own hoses from the age of 7, and worked for many years as a vet’s assistant in an equine and small animal practice (which included site visits for welfare complaints) .  Her Honours B.A. was in human exercise physiology and animal biology, followed by her teaching degree.  Ecker then completed an M.Sc. in equine exercise physiology (with a focus on heat stress/dehydration/electrolyte balance) with involvement in research that was done in preparation for the Atlanta Olympics due to the high concern for welfare of horses competing in hot/humid conditions. This led to private consulting with competitors, and she was Assistant Chef d’Equipe for two international endurance competitions.  In 2001, Ecker was part of the partnership with the Office of Open Learning to develop online equine education courses, the first university-accredited equine program , offering evidence-based courses with expert instructors and guest speakers from an international group in health, welfare and safety.    Ecker is also a Certified Equine Cruelty Investigator (Level 2), Colorado State University.  LinkedIn

Penny LawlisPenny Lawlis, B.A., M.Sc.

Professional Livestock Auditor; Adjunct Professor, Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, University of Guelph 

Penny brings over 39 years of experience developing animal welfare policy and delivering animal welfare programs and conducting thousands of audits/inspections of all livestock and poultry species (i.e., sheep, goats, dairy cattle, horses and poultry) on-farm, during transport, at auction and during slaughter in Canada, the US and Europe. She has developed and delivered animal welfare training programs for a wide variety of stakeholders including veterinarians, producers, animal welfare inspectors and retailers, meat inspectors and slaughter plant staff including the development of a decision tree for the transport of compromised dairy cattle which has been widely adopted by the agriculture industry in Canada. 

As an Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph, Penny has developed and currently teaches a graduate level course in practical assessment of animal welfare as well as acting as an advisor to graduate students at the Masters and PhD levels. Penny is a member of the development committee responsible for the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s on-farm animal care assessment program, Proaction© and a current member of the Proaction© Animal Care Technical Committee. She has published numerous peer reviewed publications as well as contributing to the development of countless educational resources.  Penny holds a Master of Science in Farm Animal Welfare and Behaviour from the University of Guelph as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Ontario and a Veterinary Technician Degree from Centralia College of Agricultural Technology. In addition, Penny is a Qualified Cow Signals© Master Trainer, a Dairy FARM evaluator, a certified Bristol University Animal Welfare Officer and certified PAACO auditor (red meat and poultry). 

Guest Speakers:  When available, Guest Speakers and Assistant Instructors will be announced for each session, according to the specific group that is taking the course.

Prerequisites:  There are no mandatory prerequisites for this course, however, the Care and Welfare Course, based on the Equine Code of Practice for Canada, is a recommended pre-requisite or co-requisite for this course and can be found on  Note:  It is recommended that the online program be structured as the Introduction to equine welfare assessment training, and followed by practical, hands-on session needed to complete the training (when possible, to provide face-to-face/hands-on training).  Specialized approaches or private course offerings can be developed for specific audiences or for developing “Equine-specific” livestock assessment specialists.  Students of the course should be 18 years of age or older. 

Learning Materials:  Learning materials will be provided on platform. 

Required Textbook(s): Course e-manual – provided within the course as a PDF format. The e-manual has been developed to provide more details about care and welfare of the horse. It will also serve as an important reference after the course is over. 

Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (updated 2018) – you can download a PDF copy of the Code for use in assessment of care and welfare according to Canada’s Code of Practice.  It is recommended that you bookmark this site or download the copy for easier reference as required. 

Course Resources:   Course resources will be provided within the course modules and will include videos/presentations, and interactive learning objects. 

The Extra Mile: Further resources will be provided for those that want to gain more knowledge in each unit.  These are optional but will enhance your knowledge and understanding of the care and welfare of horses.  These resources will also build your knowledge towards providing evidence-based educational support/orders to those that may require information to improve and understand the need to improve horse welfare. 

Time Requirements: The time commitment for this course is over one week with specific time allocated to virtual presentations/lectures and flexible time for online activities and readings/assignments.  A specific schedule for your group will be e-mailed to students prior to the start of the course. 

Achievements: Certificate of Completion – upon successful completion of the course, you will receive a Certificate of Completion from Equine Guelph – the horse owner’s Centre at the University of Guelph. 

Continuing Education Credits/Professional Development:  Your association/group may consider this course as qualifying for points or progress for professional development.  Contact your association/group for further information. 

A Pre-Course Orientation session will be held to introduce participants to the online learning platform, called TheHorsePortal, developed by Equine Guelph.  You will also meet your instructor(s) and other students.  As this point, you will have access to the course site (after setting up your registration for this course) and you can follow through on your computer as this is presented.

This virtual meeting will introduce you to the course, its structure, and the timelines as well as course resources.  This will be held on a Teams webinar platform and the link to join the Orientation Virtual Session will be e-mailed to each participant.

An orientation video will be presented in the first virtual class meeting to show students how to navigate through the couse.

Following the Pre-Course Orientation, Assigned Readings will be provided to be done prior to the start of Day 1 of the course.  As part of the orientation process, we would ask you to fill out our Survey, prior to starting Unit 1, as this will help us develop the course for your needs.

You will be asked to find specific pages of the online site and to post your Introduction into the Student Introductions forum (you will need to be able to have two windows open for the Teams meeting and  We also ask you to fill out a Pre-Course Questionnaire after posting your Introduction in the course site, and before you begin the course itself.  There will be a post-course questionnaire and a follow-up questionnaire approximately 2 months after the course offering.  Participation in the questionnaires is voluntary however the information will provide critical feedback for enhancements to this course in order to help support equine welfare.  Your input can be valuable for course improvements.

You will then be ready to launch into the course!

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