Addressing Horse Welfare Concerns in Dressage and Beyond

Recent discussions in the equestrian community underline the importance of horse welfare. Decisive action is needed, not just in dressage, but across the entire spectrum of equestrian sports.

Global Dialogues for Horse Welfare

In a concerted effort to tackle welfare concerns, the Swedish Equestrian Federation’s horse welfare council and the Gothenburg Horse Show co-hosted a meeting on horse welfare and social license. This meeting took place during the show (21–25 February) and consisted of representatives from the Nordic and Polish federations, show organisers, equine researchers, the FEI and World Horse Welfare.

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The narrative is shifting from a passive acceptance of detrimental horse welfare standards to active engagement in prevention and reporting. "Horse welfare must be addressed within the sport, but also outside it", mentioned the Swedish federation’s secretary general Johan Fyrberg.

Addressing Dressage Concerns

A lot of controversies in terms of horse treatment have been reportedly linked majorly to dressage. Hence, the Federation decided to proactively set up the FEI Dressage Forum this year - to specifically address and take actions regarding these gaps in the discipline.

The Role of Various Organizations in the Cause

The meeting led to a letter to the FEI signed by the Nordic federations to bring about a notable change. The joint efforts of the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian and Finnish federations are aimed at improving the current scenario and ensuring a safe environment for horses. They have also recognized the need to move beyond dressage and consider the welfare issues prevalent in other equestrian disciplines as well.

An FEI Initiative for Change

An FEI spokesperson responded positively to these efforts and stated, "We have thanked the national federations for their constructive approach and for highlighting the importance of following the key themes outlined in the equine ethics and wellbeing commission (EEWBC) final report."

"Likely, some actions may require rule changes, which would be submitted to the vote of the general assembly 2024."

Moving Forward

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers made clear the importance of the equestrian community taking new developments in equine research and evidence on board. "It’s important federations work together to tackle the challenges, and it’s not so much that we need new rules and regulations, we need to follow the rules that we have," said Mr Owers.

As part of the continuous stride towards better treatment for horses, the equestrian community is now putting words into action and acting proactively. Future meetings like the FEI Sports Forum and the Dressage Forum can be seen as major steps in this direction. Only by working together and placing the welfare of horses at the forefront can the equestrian community ensure a brighter and safer future for these shared companions.