Sportshorse Welfare Foundation concludes research

28. Nov 2023 / Category: Press Release

An extensive scientific study which examines the key priorities regarding sporthorse welfare has been concluded by the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF). The research has resulted in experts calling for more education and research to support riders, trainers and federations, in addition to the rollout of a welfare charter and approved guidelines to not only ensure the wellbeing of sports horses but to also safeguard the future of equestrian sports.

The full paper can be read here

Experts involved in international and national horse sports across a range of Olympic disciplines were consulted (using the Delphi technique)1 in a study which took into consideration the views of 104 active equestrian professionals spanning 24 different countries.

The panel agreed that the following aspects of equine management were essential to maintain horse health and welfare:

–       Training management

–       Competition management

–       Young horse management

–       Health status and veterinary management

–       Horse-human relations

However, the study failed to reach consensus on the matter of stable and environmental management, and welfare assessment as fundamental priorities for sporthorse health and welfare, with the majority of participants of the opinion that these aspects were already being well managed within the international horse community.

On the back of this first round of research, the experts involved have called for improved education and research and a dedicated welfare charter to inform those involved in equestrian management practices. It was also agreed that a universally agreed set of guidelines would also help to establish a social license to operate (SLO) for anyone involved in equestrianism.

The research is the first of its kind and was funded by the following equestrian federations and organisations: European Equestrian Federation, World Horse Welfare, Dutch Equestrian Federation, Belgian Equestrian Federation, Swiss Equestrian Federation, French Equestrian Federation, German Equestrian Federation, British Equestrian Federation, the International Dressage Riders and Trainers’ Club, the Sport Horse Research Foundation and Hartpury University.

The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation’s next steps will be to evaluate the opinions of other (non-elite) equestrians and the wider public on the results to date to identify and prioritise areas for further investigation. SWF will also collate evidence to understand what practices/management are being implemented across different countries, disciplines, competitions, and individuals. By increased monitoring, record keeping, and research, good practice can be identified and showcased to the wider equestrian communities and the public to establish a culture in which the quality of life for sporthorses is always the priority.

Finally, the SWF intends to work with national and international federations to provide targeted education and guidance, policy development, and regulation to improve the management of sporthorse health and the understanding of best welfare practices.

Commenting on the study, equine scientist, President of the National Equine Welfare Council (UK) and founder member and current President of the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation Dr David Marlin said, “This research is an important milestone for international equine welfare, providing an essential building block in the journey towards agreeing a universally accepted code of practice to ensure the health and wellbeing of horses all over the world. We look forward to sharing the next stage of research and moving closer to achieving our goal of establishing a benchmark for welfare excellence across all equestrian disciplines.”

[1] The Delphi method or Delphi technique is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of expert

This press release was written by the Sportshorse welfare foundation. Full information available here