Leaders urged to be bold and ambitious at ‘crucial moment’ for horse sport

  • The FEI has been urged to be bold and ambitious, and make evidence-based decisions to ensure equine welfare is always at the forefront of horse sport.

    The federation has dedicated a session to discussing the final report of the independent Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWC) at the annual FEI sports forum next week (29–30 April). The aim is to “take the time to discuss over three hours a proposed practical plan and receive feedback on actions put in place by the national federations”.

    The final report, “A good life for horses: a vision for ensuring the future involvement of horses in sport”, was presented at the FEI general assembly last year. It included 30 recommendations and asked the FEI to determine what a good life is for competition horses, and for all in the equestrian world to take accountability.

    It also urged the FEI to adopt the “precautionary principle”, which means putting horse welfare as the focal point in decision-making by understanding that absence of evidence does not necessarily mean evidence of absence. This was also urged at the 2024 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference in March, which was also titled “A good life for horses”.

    “This month, the FEI is set to convene on the EEWC’s final report and recommendations,” an ISES spokesman said after the conference. “We urge the FEI to think progressively and take action on the recommendations, in order to safeguard equine athletes as well as equestrian sports for the future.

    “The world is changing fast and as the equestrian domain is now beginning to realise, the opinions of the public in a democracy are the undaunted drivers of what is deemed acceptable, especially with regard to the use of animals in sport.”

    The spokesman added that the days of stakeholders and experts determining change are “fading away”.

    “Sustainability can only come through the FEI and equestrian federations making calculated, forward steps into the future,” he added. “The sleeping giant of public opinion is awakening and there is no sensible alternative but for the FEI to take on the EEWC’s 30 recommendations.

    “We also implore the FEI to take the bolder step of re-establishing the FEI welfare subcommittee for the horse that was disbanded in 2006. The horse needs a voice in horse sports,” added the spokesman.

    EEWC chair Nat Waran agreed on the need for the precautionary principle and for evidence-backed change.

    “One of the main issues raised by various FEI stakeholders related to their need for more research evidence,” she told H&H. “The three-day ISES conference, sponsored by a number of equestrian organisations including the FEI, brought together a programme of excellent research presentations that were highly relevant to the various recommendations made by the EEWC.”

    World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers told H&H it is very encouraging to see the widespread recognition of the need for evidence-based decisions, especially regarding sport rules.

    “The FEI is perfectly placed to set the tone in how the equestrian community should incorporate the insights new evidence reveals in how we can better protect the health, welfare and overall wellbeing of ridden horses,” he said.

    “World Horse Welfare welcomes the FEI’s publication of the final report of the EEWC, in which we played an active role, and we are looking forward to hearing in the FEI’s action plan to implement the commission’s recommendations at the sports forum. This is a superb opportunity to highlight the importance of taking equestrianism forward using both political will and appropriate resources.

    “Now is the time for the equine sector, with the FEI as a leading player, to be ambitious in its aims in creating a welfare strategy around a good life for horses, and demonstrate that they can lead at this crucial point in equestrianism’s evolution.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...