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A ‘Good Life for Horses’ opens first day of FEI Sports Forum discussions

Monday, 24 April 2023
FEI Sports Forum 2023

Photo © FEI/Richard Juilliart  Professor Dr Nathalie Waran, professor Dr Kathalijne Visser, Dr Camie Heleski, professor Madeleine Campbell, Ms Jessica Stark, Theo Ploegmakers and moderator Grania Willis at the 2023 FEI Sports Forum. Photo © FEI/Richard Juilliart.


Press release from the FEI



The 24 draft recommendations put forward by the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing (EEWB) Commission to ensure a good life for horses in equestrian sport, have received strong support from delegates attending the annual FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne today.

The recommendations – which include measures that the FEI and the wider equestrian community can take to achieve higher standards of horse welfare through individual and collective responsibility, trust, transparency, reactiveness and independent evaluation – generated an enthusiastic level of discussion and feedback in the opening sessions of the two-day gathering. This is the first time the EEWB Commission have held in-person consultations with the wider equestrian community on its work and findings, since it was created by the FEI in June 2022.

“I am confident that I speak for each and every one of us in the equestrian community when I say that at heart, all we want is what is best for our equine partners,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“The horse-human connection runs deep. It is a centuries old relationship which has evolved from horses playing vital roles in society in the past, to now, where equines are valued for the deep companionship they provide to humans. This bond between human and animal is built on mutual trust and respect, and as equestrians it is a connection which we sometimes take for granted.

“If our relationship with horses, and consequently our sport, is to stand the test of time, we need to re-affirm the essence of our relationship with horses, and assure a good life for our equine partners with a tangible course of action. 

“Under the leadership of Dr. Natalie Waran, the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission has come up with a set of draft recommendations that the FEI and the equestrian community now have for consideration and we hope that this process will serve to strengthen our Social Licence to Operate by reaffirming the public’s trust in what we do.”

Following feedback from delegates during the FEI Sports Forum, the Commission will present all proposed recommendations to the FEI Board for approval, before the FEI General Assembly that will be held in Mexico City (MEX) in November.

The purpose of the Commission’s work is to independently consider issues of public and equestrian concern that may affect ongoing social acceptance of the involvement of horses in sport. Specifically, the Commission was tasked with providing independent advice and recommendations to the FEI for ensuring equine welfare is safeguarded through ethical, evidence-based policy and practices in relation to training, management, performance and competition practices, and to improve the sport’s social license to operate (SLO).

The Commission’s first presentation to the FEI General Assembly in Cape Town in November 2022 addressed the need for change and outlined the role of the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission as ‘critical friends’. Delegates were provided with the results of two large scale surveys commissioned by the EEWB (one of public opinion and one of equestrian opinion), and an outline of the work that was being done to develop a strategic approach for addressing the main priority areas of equine welfare.

See also: A Good Life for Horses: A vision for ensuring the future involvement of horses in sport

“The Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission’s proposal for a welfare-centric FEI vision for sustaining equine participation in sport now and into the future, aims to address ethical concerns related to equine involvement in sport as well as during a horse’s lifetime,” Chair of the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission Professor Natalie Waran said. 

“We hope that the vision of a Good Life for Horses, and the associated draft recommendations, which have been informed through research and engagement with the equestrian community and the public, will help inform and inspire a positive direction, and we look forward to engaging further at the FEI Sports Forum. Through accepting this vision for the future, we believe the FEI will have a solid starting point to effect real change in equestrian sports’ mindset and practices.

“This vision and these draft recommendations, as well as the FEI Charter, are just a starting point to affect change across equestrianism. They have been created primarily around the concept of providing our horses with a good life and the responsibility we all have to deliver on that. This will require the long-term commitment of not just the FEI, but all who want horse sports to have a bright future.”


Key links

Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission

Summary of Session 1 – FEI Sports Forum 2023: Interim Report from the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (Will be uploaded shortly)

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