*Opinion* Not my sport: if horse abuse is happening, it is not ok


  • What is happening to our sport? Recently there have been multiple suspensions in equestrian sports, to do with allegations of abusive practices of one sort or another.

    None of the investigations has concluded so no one has been found guilty of anything. But if they are, this is not ok, and this is not my sport.

    My sport, my way of life, as is the case for almost all of us lucky enough to have horses in our lives, is about a partnership, and a bond with an equine partner. It’s a bond I truly believe benefits both horses and humans – when everything is ok.

    I’ve seen someone wondering whether the demands of the sport, and the quality of performance, at top level is driving some riders to carry out inappropriate training techniques. That shouldn’t even be a question in anyone’s mind. If you have to do things like those that have been alleged to win, why would you want to win, whether that’s a 1.10m at a local show or an Olympic medal?

    I would like to think all of us lucky enough to be able to ride started and carry on because of a love for horses, and that those who do love their horses would condemn abusive training techniques and practices at all times.

    There are two big issues here. One is what’s being alleged, and as people have said, if you see certain things at shows and in public, what’s happening in private? I think all of us need to be constantly questioning our beliefs and practices, and committing to do the best we possibly can by our horses because it is the only right thing to do.

    But there’s also the threat to our future. If abuse is happening, we will not have a sport. The public will not trust us to care properly for our horses’ welfare, so restrictions will be put in place by people who don’t understand horses, and we could very well end up not being able to ride at all.

    Anyone who is found to have abused horses in any way, especially top riders who are the showpiece of our sport to the world, is contributing to an end for all of us. Anyone found guilty of such things has to be hugely sanctioned, to prevent them doing similar to any other horses, and to act as a warning that this is not tolerated, by the rest of us in the sport and the wider public who will determine whether we keep it.

    I think, and I hope, that the tide is turning, that people are starting to realise what’s not ok.

    I also firmly believe that many horses thrive on being ridden and competing. I just hope that will continue, for generations into the future.

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