It is a good thing that journalists continue to mention the prefix “demissionary” in every interview or quote with a minister. We almost forgot that the current government is actually a caretaker government. The billions of koruna paid by the caretaker treasury exceed 70 billion euros, which is more than 4,000 euros for each Dutch person. Exceptional spend for a ‘caretaker’ wardrobe, here we go again. While everyone in The Hague was busy with these packages of support and measures such as curfews at the beginning of this year, the Animals Party introduced an amendment that has since been adopted by Parliament. The effect of this can be very large.
In the Netherlands we know “animal law”. A very important part of our society, because it tries to ensure that people treat animals in a decent manner. For example, the law states – among other things – that it is prohibited to harm animals, to cause injury or to cause harm to health or welfare, without a “reasonable purpose” (according to Article 2.1). Explained by me: A dog, a horse, a goat, a cow or a cat can be corrected in the course of education, but this should remain within decent frameworks. It is a good thing that we have included this in the law.
“Performance with a horse requires essentially two requirements; a good education of the horse and a high level of well-being of the horse.”
Education is indispensable in the equestrian sport
Many animals are domesticated in our living environment (no longer “wild”), so to give them a decent place in the inhabited community, some form of education is needed. Dogs should not bite and cats should not scratch. The principle of “education” is also indispensable in equestrian sports. Performance with a horse essentially requires two requirements; Namely, good breeding for the horse and a high level of well-being for the horse. Shouldn’t Sven Kramer and Tom Dumoulin also feel good about themselves, be well-fed and have the discipline to do their best?
In this way, KNHS, as a sports association, implements the principles arising from animal law on all possible fronts. We strongly emphasize that exercise with horses can only be achieved if there is a high degree of horse care. On the ‘educational’ side, our trainer and formal courses focus extensively on regularity recognition (IR) around the musculoskeletal system, housing and health of horses. All about luxury.
We also continually publish information about keeping and caring for horses in clinics, training seminars, and in our communications (online). This way we inform our members and society as well as government and parliament. All this is done in cooperation with our partners in the sector, such as the FNRS (Federation of Dutch Riding Centres) and SRP (Horse Sector Council).
The amendment submitted by the PVDD adds the following to the above-mentioned article of the Act: “A reasonable purpose does not in any way include the ability to keep animals in a particular breeding system or housing method.” At first glance, it may seem like an insignificant addition to the law, for example the battery cages for chickens that we have socially accepted are unfriendly to animals. But may I give you the following, that dog that you have in your house as a pet, does not also live in a certain “keeping system” that affects well-being to some extent? You decide when to let it out and also when to stay inside.
“What this would mean for the horse industry is still not at all clear. Can you house horses in a stable during periods of the day?”
Fortunately, I can assure you a bit. You don’t have to leave your dogs and cats permanently free in the woods en masse. For pet owners, the impact of the modification is not expected to be significant. But what this will mean for the horse industry is still not entirely clear. Can you house horses in a stable during periods of the day?
The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality has formed a group of internal projects to implement and follow up on this amendment. As a sports association, we have good contact with the ministry to identify opportunities and pitfalls of adjustment. However, there is a hurry. Parliament had already adopted the amendment, and the minister was not given any opportunity to test the feasibility and impact before discussing the amendment.
The KNHS, which is represented by the SRP, describes guidelines for informing horse owners about the proper care and housing of horses. Some examples are things like the size of the barn and its furnishing. Furthermore, under normal circumstances, horses should be given free movement for at least 2.5 hours outside of a stable (think pastures or sandy pastures). At the same time, horses should not be left in the scorching sun, without shelter. Guidelines are dynamic, KNHS and SRP are in constant consultation with vets, NVWA and veterinary advisors and regularly adjust advice accordingly. The modification, on the other hand, does not provide any concrete guidelines for horse keepers.
“As a sports federation, we believe that the unique relationship between rider and horse, built with care and harmony, leads to mutual happiness, more fun and better sporting performance.”
Customization is important
The strength of the equestrian sport lies in cooperation. It takes years to get used to a horse, gain its complete confidence and create a unique bond. Cyclists can still change bikes a few weeks before the championship, and there is no chance for cyclists at that point. As a sports association, we believe that the unique relationship between rider and horse, built with care and harmony, leads to mutual happiness, more fun and better athletic performance. Not only for the rider, but also for the horses. Personalization is also important when caring for and caring for horses. One horse likes to be in a meadow all day outside, while the other wants to return to his familiar stable an hour later. So there is no one way to housing. Our guidelines support horse owners in keeping horses in a manner appropriate to the horse in question.
Insights also change over time. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for us to house a horse in a stable all day and only take it out of the stable when it was about to ride. It has now become the norm that horses simply must be able to move around freely for a few hours a day. By the way, it is sometimes forgotten that it is not wrong for a horse to spend part of the day in the stable. Horses can rest there, it does not rain and shade is provided in summer. Sometimes it happens that keeping horses in stables, despite their daily freedom of movement, is negatively “framed”. For example, I would like to ensure that such housing is unfairly challenged by modification.
Appeal to good handles
Currently, the modification raises ambiguity and can only lead to bureaucratic regulations for horse owners, which can conflict with allotment. As a sports association, KNHS is committed to a high standard of wellbeing for horses. We want to achieve this in a fair manner in constant consultation with veterinary experts. That is why we advocate that with our partners and all equestrian athletes, we provide good handles to the government, so that the modification is completed in a practical and fair way for people and horses. Horses, like dogs and cats, are pets, so we shouldn’t frame care and housing in light of the natural behavior of “wild” animal species hundreds of years ago.
Thomas Bosmann (1999) is a member of the Youth Board of the KNHS and a fourth-year student in econometrics and operations research at Tilburg University. He also works for a large American barbecue manufacturer and has his own company that builds websites for beginners and mainly freelancers. It also gives tutoring in math and economics to high school students during the week. He is also a board member of the Equestrian Federation PV Midland in Utrecht. Thomas Bosmann is also active in showjumping, both with his own horse and with a breeder-owned horse. He regularly participates in weekend jumping competitions. If his schedule permits, he visits stallion inspections, international competitions and tournaments.