EEF President joins new FEI Social License to Operate Commission

02. Jun 2022 / Category: Press Release

The FEI has formed an independent Commission to develop a practical framework that will allow the International Federation to address current and future concerns related to the use of horses in sport.

“In our industry, Social License to Operate (SLO) is the term given to society’s acceptance of the practice of equestrian sport and all its related activities,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos explained.

“Equestrian sport and the FEI’s activities are more than ever under public scrutiny and through the Commission we want to embrace that scrutiny to drive change and shine the spotlight on our number one stakeholder – the horse.

“There are comprehensive systems and mechanisms in place to protect the welfare of the horse, but there is more that can be done, and more that must be done. And in an ever-changing society, where perceptions shift and norms evolve at an increasingly fast pace, the FEI must address these concerns and criticisms from society and within equestrian circles in a clear and transparent manner.

“This is our duty as the governing body responsible for equestrian sport, and this is why we have set up this important and independent Commission to allow us to move forward with a course of action that will strengthen equestrian’s place in society.”

The 10 person Commission will be chaired by Professor Dr. Natalie Waran (NZL), an internationally respected equine welfare expert who is Professor of One Welfare and Executive Dean at the Eastern Institute of Technology (Te Pūkenga) in New Zealand.

Prof. Waran is among the five members of the Commission considered as external to the FEI, with their selection based on consultation with equine welfare and veterinary groups, while the remaining five members represent the FEI and have been selected for their experience, specific area of FEI responsibility and to provide the athletes’ and officials’ viewpoint.

“I am very honoured to have been asked to lead this work,” Prof Waran said. “By gathering external experts together to facilitate the development of a framework to address and advance the welfare needs of the sports horse, the FEI has taken a key step forward in terms of social license.

“By being willing to look to the horizon, and address current and future challenges in relation to equestrian sports’ Social License to Operate, as well as to view change as a force for good, the FEI and its member organisations will provide the leadership required to help future-proof equestrian sports.”

The first meetings of the Commission, which has yet to be formally named, will take place in June 2022, and will include plans for engagement with various stakeholders and the focus and composition of the Working Groups. The Commission is expected to work together over an initial period of 18-months, with an interim report to be presented at the FEI General Assembly in November 2022 in Cape Town (RSA), followed by a second report at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2023 and a final report/framework to be submitted for approval at the FEI General Assembly 2023 in Mexico.

On joining the committee, EEF President Theo Ploegmakers said "I am delighted to be part of this new commission and help drive the topic of social licence. It is a critical issue that I have been aware and passionate about for some time, and now we will work collectively with the expert members within this group to create policy and action to improve equestrianisms place in society."


FEI Social License to Operate Commission

Chair: Professor Dr. Natalie Waran, External Expert, Professor of One Welfare and Executive Dean at the Eastern Institute of Technology (Te Pūkenga) in New Zealand.



  • Professor Kathalijne Visser-Riedstra, External Expert, Professor (UAS) Human-Animal Interactions at Aeres University of Applied Sciences - Almere, Flevoland, The Netherlands
  • Dr Camie Heleski, External Expert, Senior Lecturer College of Agriculture, Food and Environment – Lexington USA
  • Dr Madeleine Campbell, External Expert, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Interactions & Ethics – Royal Veterinary College University of London
  • Ms Jessica Stark, External Expert, World Horse Welfare Communication & Public Affairs Director
  • Mr Theo Ploegmakers, European Equestrian Federation President, FEI Board Member
  • Mr Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, Spanish jumping rider – International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC)
  • Mr Ken E. Lalo, CAS Arbiter, former Chair of the FEI Tribunal, President of the Israel Equestrian Federation
  • Ms Sabrina Ibanez, FEI Secretary General, APSO President
  • Mr Cesar Hirsch, FEI Judge and Steward Level 3 and President of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation (PAEC)


Ex Officio - Administrative and Logistic Support

  • Dr Francisco Lima, FEI Director Governance & Institutional Affairs
  • Ms Barbara Rodel, Manager FEI President’s Office