Further to its launch of its vision, A Good Life for Horses, and 24 recommendations made to the FEI and international delegates at the Sports Forum in Lausanne in April of this year, the FEI’s Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission [EEWBC] has launched a new survey of equestrian stakeholders to hear their views on how they feel about the proposed approach to safeguarding equine wellbeing.

The 24 recommendations outline actions the FEI should take to demonstrate leadership, trustworthiness, transparency, proactivity and openness to independent evaluation.

For instance, the FEI is asked to:

  • Publicly commit to defining, promoting and ensuring a Good Life for horses as the fundamental tenet of the FEI Equine Wellbeing Strategy. (Recommendation 2)
  • Adopt a transparent and evidence-based approach for assessing the impact on horse welfare of new and existing items of tack and equipment in training and competition. (Recommendation 8)
  • Require mandatory collection and publication of comprehensive lifecycle information and injury statistics for horses involved in sport. (Recommendation 16)
  • Ensure that all FEI stakeholders commit to the FEI Equestrian Charter. (Recommendation 17)
  • Empower officials to ensure welfare is paramount, through improved mandatory training and ongoing professional development, greater support for ensuring effective enforcement and more accountability for achieving high standards of individual horse welfare at all times at an event. (Recommendation 21)

The survey — which is offered in English, French and Spanish — welcomes responses from anyone involved in horses by June 22 2023. The questions include:

  • Do they agree that horses can live a Good Life when involved in sport?
  • To what extent they feel the 24 recommendations made by the Commission would make a real difference to the welfare of the sport horse if adopted by the FEI?
  • Whether respondents would be happy to pledge to the FEI’s proposed new Equestrian Charter, requiring all FEI athletes to affirm their awareness of the responsibilities that come with using horses in sport, around understanding its welfare and behavioural needs, and “respecting the horse as a sentient creature capable of feeling both positive and negative emotions”?

The survey also points to the Commission’s proposed detailed Strategic Approach to help ensure ‘A good life for horses’ , through use of six strategic enablers; evidence, education, engagement, effective regulation, enforcement and empowerment.

“We were delighted with the extremely positive response to our recommendations made at April’s Sports Forum,” says EEWBC Chair Professor Natalie Waran. “The equestrian community understood that we can only demonstrate how seriously we take the responsibility of involving horses in sport with top-to-bottom engagement across the equestrian community, and a desire to act in the best interests if the horse”.

“The use of the word ‘sentient’ in the Charter is deliberate because it highlights that horses feel negative and positive emotions such as fear, stress, pain, contentment and pleasure, as well as the responsibility we all have for ensuring that equestrians understand the responsibility they have for how their horse feel. Animal sentience is recognized in law in many countries, and to ensure good welfare, we all need to understand what that is, why it’s relevant and why it matters to the horse.

“The EEWB Commission advocates evidence-based decisions to safeguard horse welfare, but also cautions that whilst existing and ongoing work to identify robust indicators for practical equine welfare assessment is important, where research may not yet be available or is inconclusive, we should ‘err on the side of caution’ by applying a precautionary approach where there may be a welfare risk to the horse”.

To complete the survey by June 22, 2023, please use this link.