British equestrian world proudly unites behind new horse welfare charter

  • In our privileged position to live a life involving horses, we must champion the best possible standards for their welfare – and this is non-negotiable.

    This is the message behind a new Charter for the Horse, a “unified approach to safeguarding our equines and equids”, which launched on 18 March. British Equestrian (BEF), its 19 member bodies and other industry leaders have united to sign the charter, committing to “endorse the highest standards of equine welfare, wellbeing and ethics”.

    The charter was developed to be adopted across the industry, by all who have any connection to horses and other equids. Under six headings, of empathy, care, respect, consideration, ethics and learning, the charter sets out what must be done to ensure all our horses’ needs are met.

    BEF chief executive Jim Eyre said: “In our privileged position to live and work with horses, we must champion the very best standards and excellence levels for their welfare – it’s non-negotiable, and the support for bringing this overarching Charter for the Horse to fruition has been outstanding.

    “There’s been a real passion and sense of determination to make it happen and now we look forward to working with our member bodies, their members and the wider British equestrian community to upholding the charter, with equine welfare at the forefront of all activity.”

    The charter “encompasses the essence” of the FEI Equestrian Charter, created by the independent Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWC). The British version has been created for everyone in this country who interacts with, owns or rides horses at any level and for any purpose.

    “I’m delighted to see the release of this charter – it’s such a positive move for our industry and unites us under one common aim,” said dressage superstar Carl Hester. “I always treat my horses as horses first and athletes second to support their mental and physical wellbeing, which means they can perform at their happy best on the world stage. I’d love to see everyone join together in showing support for the charter and turning the words into action, for the good of all horses throughout the country.”

    The charter is based on the internationally recognised “three Fs”: freedom, friends and forage and the five domains welfare model, which states that nutrition, physical environment, health, behavioural interactions and mental state are the crucial factors for an animal’s positive experience (Vet clinic, p24).

    The BEF’s board and equine wellbeing and ethics advisory group has also been working on “extensive revisions” to the BEF rulebook and the policy that underpins the charter. The group members studied the EEWC report and incorporated recommendations from it into the rulebook, which will be released next year.

    Group chair Madeline Campbell said: “I am delighted that British Equestrian and its member bodies are leading the world in implementing the recommendations of the EEWC at national level. Such proactive, collaborative sharing of responsibility across disciplines and uses is just what we need to safeguard the welfare of horses from elite to grassroots levels of equestrianism.”

    The Charter for the Horse is available at britishequestrian.org.uk, as a pledge version, signed by representatives of all member bodies, and as a version for all members of the equestrian community to download and sign to mark their own commitment, or “display on tack room walls, noticeboards and social media to proudly show their support to providing our equines with a lifetime of care, consideration and wellbeing”.

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