‘A wake-up call’: 20% of public do not support horses in sport, survey finds

  • A fifth of people do not support the continued involvement of horses in sport in any circumstances, in research described as a “wake-up call” for equestrianism.

    World Horse Welfare is hosting a panel discussion today (21 June) to discuss what can and must be done for horse sport to maintain its social licence to operate, or public support.

    The meeting comes in response to the results of an independent study commissioned by World Horse Welfare and carried out by YouGov, from which the key findings were:

    • 40% only supported the continued involvement of horses in sport if their welfare is improved,
    • 60% said there should be more safety and welfare measures in place in horse sports.
    • 16% felt their confidence in protection of horse welfare in sport had been affected negatively over the past two to three years in response to media coverage.
    • 52% felt horse welfare should be prioritised more in communications.
    • 20% did not support the continued involvement of horses in sport under any circumstances.

    World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “This is the first survey we have undertaken on this important subject, and the findings should be a wake-up call to everyone involved in equestrian sports that they are not as trusted with horse welfare as they need to be to maintain public support.

    “I am afraid that the results of our survey reflect the reality of the UK public’s perception of welfare in horse sport but we can and must turn this around.”

    Today’s discussion, which starts at 11am, features key figures in horse sport.

    Register to watch the debate online

    Eventer Pippa Funnell will be joined by Madeleine Campbell, a senior lecturer in human-animal interactions and ethics at the Royal Vet College, Barry Johnson, chair of British racing’s Horse Welfare Board, Christian Landolt, a dressage and eventing rider, trainer and FEI ground jury member, and David Morley, chair of the Hurlingham Polo Association pony welfare committee. Former H&H editor Lucy Higginson is chairing the debate.

    “As a charity that supports the responsible involvement of horses in sport we are, today, bringing together leaders in racing, polo and equestrianism to encourage a deeper conversation on how the different equestrian sports can work better together to address this issue and ensure the long-term sustainability of their respective activities,” Mr Owers said.

    “Horse sport can rebuild that trust with the public and maintain support — its social licence to operate — and have a bright future, but only if it opens itself to change. We look forward to having these conversations and importantly, seeing action.”

    The survey involved 2,057 adults, representative of the UK population in gender and socio-economic background. Of respondents, 94% had little or no recent contact with horses and 45% had never had contact.

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