KNHS supports science in developing guidelines for the welfare of sports horses

A group of eminent equine scientists launches an international initiative to establish best practices and clear guidelines for the training and management of sports horses. They founded the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation (SWF), where they will discuss what sport horses need to feel good. KNHS is one of the national equestrian associations supporting the project.

We live in a time when the sport of equestrianism is increasingly in the spotlight and the welfare of competition horses is regularly checked. Opponents of equestrian sports express concern about the welfare of participating horses, while equestrian athletes believe that they take good care of their horses and that optimum performance can only be achieved when the horse is healthy and happy. Debate rages on, yet both sides have one important thing in common: They both understand the importance of equine care.
A group of eminent scientists around the world has come to the conclusion that in order to sustainably protect the well-being of sports horses, it is necessary to determine what sports horses need to achieve a good level of well-being. The Sovereign Wealth Fund will consider this question.

Incorporating a wealth of experience
Co-founder Dr. Jane Williams, Head of Research and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hartbury in the UK said: “Our aim is to work with the best professionals in the field to define the ultimate ethical training and welfare scheme for sport horses. But also to protect and improve the reputation of the equestrian sport, the current scientific evidence regarding the welfare of horses Sports are very limited because we are dealing with animals, which of course are unable to verbally express how they look, however, there are a large number of equestrian professionals around the world – riders, grooms, trainers, vets, scientists, farriers, owners and others – who have A wealth of experience and knowledge on the subject. We would like to access and evaluate their expertise to come up with recommendations, which we can reach a recognized and common international agreement on the ‘best p ractices’.

Unique collaboration
Over 150 highly experienced equestrian professionals from 32 countries and equine scholars will unite in this unique and pioneering collaboration. The group is made up of experts from different equine disciplines and different types of professionals from multiple (equine) fields. By bringing together the opinions of scholars, practitioners, and riders, it is hoped that a clear framework for guiding principles will emerge. Explains one of the founders, Prof. Dr. Lars Robestroff (Uppsala University). “The goal is for them to come to a consensus about the sport horse’s need to feel good. Their statement will form the basis of the debate on the equestrian sport. It helps opponents to better position what they see in the sport of equestrianism, but it also gives riders the tools to take better care of their horses. Ultimately Horses will benefit from it in equestrian sports.

Need more proof
Roly Owers, CEO of World Horse Welfare, explains: “More evidence is urgently needed to explain how to protect or improve the welfare of sport horses in their daily management and training. Relevant. Equestrian stakeholders, as well as other horse owners, can benefit from the information The new data is generated by the Sovereign Wealth Fund, enabling them to make informed decisions to ensure that the welfare of the horse is put first. It also gives them objective evidence of demonstrating the welfare of horses and communicating with a wider audience, so that the sport of equestrianism remains socially acceptable.”

Extensive project support
The sovereign wealth fund has already received support from the European Equestrian Federation (EEF), Sport Horse Research, Welfare and the University of Hartbury. The initiative is also supported by equestrian federations in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Fenna Westerduin responds to the initiative on behalf of the KNHS: “KNHS is proud to be a project partner of the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation. It is important that we have a broad consensus on what horseback riding is and how you can see it. The well-being of horses in equestrian sport should always be first worldwide.”

Dutch founders
SWF was founded by a large group of scholars, including the Dutch Dr. Caroline Munster and Professor Marianne M Silhouette van Oldrotenburg-Osterbahn. With KNHS as a partner, the Netherlands is making an important contribution to the project.
Theo Ploegmakers, Chairman of the Board of Directors of EEF, a partner of SWF: “We are pleased to work with SWF on this project. Promoting equine welfare is extremely important to us, but so far there is no agreement on what equine welfare means and what the criteria are. Researchers occupy The pioneers involved in this initiative are at the fore in equine science and are therefore better equipped to ensure that the measures we take are not only proven in practice, but also backed by science.”
The project started in early 2022 and preliminary results are expected at the end of August. These results will be presented at the EEF International Meeting in September 2022.

Source: KNHS

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