Horse welfare “on course”- strengthening equine ethics in the show ring

I think we’re on the “right lead” when the horse show industry seeks to strengthen sport horse welfare and to safeguard the public image of horse competition – our “social license to operate”.  So I  was encouraged to learn about FEI’s newly formed Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission –  an independent advisory group to steer  FEI’s decision-making, addressing ethical concerns of the competitive horse industry.
They identified 6 priority focus areas to consider when making welfare-based recommendations. These included:

  • Training methods, riding, tack, and equipment.
  • Recognizing signs of physical and emotional stress.
  • Accountability, enforcement, and knowledge about equine welfare.
  • The horse’s life outside of the competition ring.
  • People’s competitive drive and inclination to treat the horse as a number.
  • Masking health problems that could render the horse unfit to compete

These, in addition to 24 recommendations.

In the age of cell phone cameras and social media, the well-being of horses is in the public eye. The commission carried out 2 surveys of horse industry participants, professionals and the general public –an effort to engage with the public, educate them about equine welfare, hear their concerns, and be completely transparent about the way competition horses are treated.

The group includes veterinarians, researchers and experts in equine behaviour, welfare, equitation science, public affairs  and presidents of equine sport organizations.

“Equine industry stakeholders, and especially the FEI, must take care not to reach the tipping point—when the general public worldwide no longer accepts equestrian sport and calls out for legislation banning it.”
Natalie Waran

For more on the FEI Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission: