Championing Equine Welfare: A Crucial Turning Point for Horse Sport
The anticipated annual Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) sports forum is now pivotal more than ever in influencing the direction of horse sports. With the welfare of competition horses at the heart of the agenda, FEI leaders are called upon to boldly and ambitiously rise to the occasion.

A First Look into the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWC) Report

At the crux of this discussion is the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWC) final report presented last year, titled "A good life for horses: a vision for ensuring the future involvement of horses in sport." This elaborate report isn’t just a few recommendations slapped together, but an exhaustive list of 30 action points to help FEI prioritize and evidence-proof decisions meant for the welfare of competition horses.

Defining a 'Good Life' for Competition Horses

So, what does a 'good life' for competition horses look like, you might wonder? The EEWC report calls for the FEI to develop a lucid definition for this. The definition will thereby create a foundation for translating the 30 EEWC recommendations into action while ensuring equine welfare doesn't end up taking a backseat in equestrian sports.

The Precautionary Principle – A gamechanger?

One of the standout EEWC recommendations is adoption of the 'precautionary principle.' Although a noble concept, invoking it might cause a riffle or two in the generally calm waters of the equestrian community. This principle stipulates that in scenarios where an action might cause harm to the public or the environment and scientific consensus is lacking, the promoters of the action shoulder the burden of availing proof that the action does not harm. In equestrian sports, the principle translates to erring on the side of equine welfare.

The Return of the FEI Welfare Subcommittee

The bid to resurrect the FEI Welfare Subcommittee constitutes another pivotal recommendation by the EEWC. Despite having been disbanded in 2006, this subcommittee will play an instrumental part if reconstituted. Its functions will include oversight over the implementation of the EEWC recommendations and ensuring that equine welfare is always in sharp focus.

The Challenges and Opportunities of Implementing the Recommendations

Turning the EEWC report recommendations into actionable points isn’t a straightforward matter. Plenty of engagement among stakeholders, such as federations, riders, trainers, and veterinarians is required to manage this herculean task. This process also necessitates commitment to continuous research and education to keep up-to-date with the latest scientific advancements in equestrian practices.

Stakeholders Opinions Matter

It’s essential to take into account various stakeholders perceptions on the adoption of the precautionary principle. Some stakeholders might hail it as the necessary solution for equine protection while others might see it as an impairment to the sport’s progress. Navigating these potentially polarized perspectives is crucial for a productive and inclusive implementation process.

Furthermore, we can't overlook the sway of public opinion on equestrian sports. With increasing public shifts towards animal welfare consciousness, it's vital for FEI leaders to remain transparent about their actions in advocating for horse welfare. Such an approach boosts the public’s trust, support, and contributes to the sport's evolution.

In summary, the annual FEI sports forum presents an invaluable opportunity for the equestrian community to close ranks and prioritize the welfare of competition horses. By endorsing the EEWC report recommendations, the FEI can chart a new trajectory for equestrian sports that prominently features horse welfare. This commitment will, in turn, necessitate a joint effort from all players and a dedication to continuous research and education. As equestrians, it's time to recognize that the welfare of horses is a moral obligation and a key determinant for the longevity and growth of our beloved sport.