Applying the Five Domains Model to the Welfare Assessment of Sport and Recreation Horses

  From 1 June 2024



Hosted by the University of New England, this course teaches how to apply the 2020 Five Domains Model for Welfare Assessment and Monitoring to sport and recreation horses. Through 7 carefully designed, engaging modules, the course steps students through the 2020 Five Domains Model in a detailed manner, always considering welfare according to the latest scientific understanding. Students learn to apply a welfare monitoring checklist to evaluate a focal horse's welfare, to highlight what is going well, where there may be compromises, potential risk, and opportunities for incremental improvements. It covers the ethical environments of the horse sector, and includes strategies to think through challenging situations, including end-of-life decisions. 

Learning outcomes

  1. Explain the contemporary understanding of animal welfare 
  2. Recognise optimal conditions for horses 
  3. Classify all areas of a horse's management into the Five Domains
  4. Apply a Five Domains-based welfare assessment checklist using reliable and feasible indicators 
  5. Identify specific aspects of a horse’s existence that compromise welfare 
  6. Reflect on opportunities to make incremental improvements in a horse's lived experience.

Course structure summary
  • The course is divided into 7 Modules and takes 25 hours to complete.
  • The content is presented in video format with a text transcript and compulsory learning assessments.
  • The course is self-paced. Each task must be completed, in the right order, before proceeding to the next part.
  • By the end of the course, learners will have correctly answered a total of 85 quiz questions and assessed the welfare of five case study horses using the Mellorater, a Five Domains based assessment questionnaire.

Cristina L Wilkins

Cristina is a PhD Candidate with the University of New England, Australia, in the School of Rural and Environmental Science, researching human behaviour change for animal welfare. She is a co-author of ‘The 2020 Five Domains Model: Including Human-Animal Interactions in Assessments of Animal Welfare’ the gold standard for animal welfare assessment and monitoring.

Cristina is a co-author of the Mellorater and current project leader. Mellorater is a free app featuring an easy-to-use checklist based on the 2020 Five Domains Model, to help animal guardians monitor and improve their animal’s life and welfare, help them make better management decisions, and achieve a good life for all animals. Mellorater app collects anonymous data on animals’ life-worlds under the approval of the University of New England Human Research Ethics Committee to advance animal welfare.

Cristina combines a lifelong commitment to science communication, education and advancing ethical, sustainable and evidence-based practices, with extensive knowledge of the horse industry.

From 2009 to 2021, Cristina was editor and publisher of Horses and People Magazine, a media platform using evidence-based, constructive journalism to improve the welfare, safety and lifestyle of horses and people. She has written extensively on issues affecting horse welfare and the social license to operate of horse sports.

Under her editorial guidance, Horses and People Magazine gained a worldwide reputation for consistently publishing high quality content and disseminating research findings in an accessible and balanced way.

In recent years, Cristina has worked alongside eminent equitation scientists and co-authored6 peer-reviewed journal articles. She developed the course titled ‘Applying the Five Domains Model to Sport Horse Welfare Assessment’ which is hosted by the University of New England, Australia, and is the only course endorsed by Professor Emeritus David Mellor, ONZM, the architect of the Five Domains Model.

Her infographic, the ‘Horse Welfare Assessment Guide’ which she created to disseminate the Five Domains Model in a more accessible form, was included in New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s (NZTR) ‘Minimum Welfare Standards’ and was adapted by Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) for their latest Equine Welfare Framework.

A study by researchers from University Centre Sparsholt in the United Kingdom, which is published in Animal Welfare, tested the effect of the ‘Horse Welfare Assessment Guide’ infographic on horse owners and found it had a significant impact on equestrians’ assessment of equine welfare.

Cristina is a previous member of the Council of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), holding Media and Communications roles between 2011 and 2019. She was actively involved in the daily management of social media channels and the development of all four of the Society’s Position Statements.


$226.20 NZD


Cristina Wilkins 
P +61421920670