One animal species – versatile use

Horses have co-determined the development of human beings decisively. For approx. 5,000 years now, they have been used for multiple purposes. In the past, they served transportation purposes and as well as meat suppliers. Today, they are mainly put to use as sport and leisure time animals. Horses differ from other pets in that we ride on them and thus influence them. They are also status symbols and exist in a myriad of different breeds. Switzerland is home to approx. 85,000 horses, ponies and donkeys.


Frequent animal protection problems

A lack of exercise and contact with other horses, inappropriate handling and treatment or a bad stable climate are often the case when horses are held as a hobby. The use of aids such as restrictive harnesses and reins, whips or spurs are also problematic. Where horses are used for sports, overexertion and doping occur frequently. Often, questionable or prohibited methods are applied to train young horses that are forced to perform in a manner inappropriate to their age. As with practically all intensively bred animal species, there are also horse species with extremely distinctive physical characteristics (extreme breeds).


Horses and ponies under the law

Horses and ponies are domestic animals and belong to the family of equidae. Amongst others, their holding and use are regulated in the general animal holding stipulations of the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance (art. 2 – 14 Tschv). Article 21 of the Animal Protection Ordinance also describes prohibited actions and article 31 the requirements towards horse holders.


A special paragraph (art. 59 – 63 TschV) is dedicated to equidae alone. Transportation as well as anesthesia prior to slaughtering are also regulated. Table 7 of addendum 1 of the Animal Protection Ordinance finally; lays down the minimum requirements towards the holding of horses in stables and exercise space.


Despite progress, animal protection regulations for horses and ponies remain insufficient. Although the legislator forbids horses from being bound – with a transitional phase until 2013 – limited „social contact“ remains permitted. Accordingly, horses must only be ensured visual, acoustic and olfactory contact to other horses. The general stipulation made in article 13 according to which species that live socially are to be ensured appropriate social contact thus becomes worthless.



Pferde ruhen unter dem Baum
© B. Trachsel

Horses, ponies and their holders

  • Horse holders need to be well informed. More on training requirements as stipulated by the Swiss Veterinary Office.

Reading advice

  • Horsemanship. Partnerschaft mit Pferden. Christine Lange, Müller Rüschlikon Verlag, 1996 ISBN 3-275-01196-0
  • Handbuch Pferdeverhalten. Margrit H. Zeitler-Feicht, Ulmer Verlag, 2001 ISBN 3-8001-3110-2
  • Die Psyche des Pferdes G. Gerweck, Franck-Kosmos 1997, ISBN 3-440-07278-9