The British Horseracing Authority has commissioned a project to develop a welfare and wellbeing assessment to identify factors that contribute most to horses’ quality of life
The equestrian industry must work together to ensure our sports continue to thrive under increased public scrutiny.
Annamarie Phelps, chair of the British Horseracing Authority, set out how the organisation is taking responsibility in racing, at the World Horse Welfare conference on 13 November.
Ms Phelps spoke of racing’s, and horse sport’s, need to maintain its social licence to operate, and act to ensure welfare is not only the top priority, but communicating this to the public.
“If we could let ourselves off the bridle and talk about our horses with the same exuberance as a young Enable [ran], that would be a good start,” she said.
“But we want to go further, to quantify the benefits to horses’ wellbeing. So we’ve commissioned a project with Bristol University to develop a welfare and wellbeing assessment, with the aim of trying to identify factors that contribute most to quality of life.“If we can, it should be possible to do the same for horses in other sports.”
“Talking about horse welfare isn’t easy,” she added. “We’re probably not connecting with people the way we’d like. It’s a global problem for racing, particularly now, but it’s also a problem for other equestrian sports.”
Ms Phelps said the BHA tracks public opinion on using animals in sport. In 2011, the gap between those in favour and those against was 26%, last year it was 14%.
“That’s a measure of the shift in public attitudes towards animals,” she said.
She said racing must be open and transparent, ready to engage with questioners, to show empathy with concerned people.
“They care and we care,” she said. “I really believe we can inspire people with the power of our sport. It enriches the lives of humans and animals.
“None of this is easy. We need deeper understanding of people we try to reach, adapt our language and how we tell our story. I know we can do this.
“There’s far more that unites us than divides us. We already see it in partnerships with others in the equestrian world, we’ve had conversations about extending our collaboration and I sense a common view forming, that we should work together to promote the place of horses in our national life, to ensure the moral case for horses in sport and leisure is articulated and properly understood.”
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