More than 80 delegates from more than 30 countries took part in the inaugural three-day Global Equestrian Forum in The Netherlands in the first week of the month.
Experts from different areas of the equestrian world held presentations to inspire the discussion on both the current situation of the horse sport but especially to answer the question Quo Vadis? – where is the equestrian sport going to in the future?
The forum was hosted by Professor Arno Gego and his team from the prestigious Aachen School of Equestrian Art and Design and collaborators P.S.I. (Performance Sales International) and HCCG (Horse Competence Center Germany). The forum was held at Chateau Vaalsbroek, a historic castle situated only 5km from Aachen City, at The Netherlands-Germany-Belgium border, framed by a mountain landscape on the highest point of The Netherlands.
Dr Hanfried Haring from the European Equestrian Federation said that the equestrian business in the EU alone is worth about €100 billion of turnover annually. Out of 60 million horses globally, about 6 million live in Europe. The annual growth of the sector is evaluated to 5 % per year.
It is clear that Europe is the foundation of equestrian sport but several presentations from new global developments globally gave a clear sign of changing dynamics in the horse sport. These included Al Shaqab in Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Latin America, China and the US. The Aachen School itself has a strong history of co-operation established with many of these facilities – Al Shaqab and Hippo-Arena Šamorin in Slovakia particularly.
Among the presenters and participants were Olympic riders Ludger Beerbaum and Isabell Werth, who gave a look into the development of the sport and to the training of young horses. The demands of modern equestrian sports on horses were outlined, and footage from the past century was presented.
Horse welfare and the image of equestrian sports was discussed vividly and several presentations handled this as well – veterinary issues, steward training, FEI rules were presented and discussed, along with modern footing issues equipment and the ever growing traveling of the horses and athletes globally.
The importance of horse welfare and the development of the public image in both inside the sport and to the outside world through media is of crucial importance in the hope of growing popularity. Experts from the FEI jumping committee presented the current situation to the forum which led to open discussions.
An important topic looked at academic studies, which can further develop the level of knowledge and education for the needs of equestrian sport. Differences in the approach between theory and practice and with the employment aspects in Europe and North America were part of the presentations.
The growth of the equestrian sport globally is attracting young people and a great deal of education will be needed in the future to guarantee the level of people providing the foundation for the sport, as well as active international interaction between the teaching facilities.
The gala dinner of the three day forum was held in the beautiful setting of the historical Aachen city hall – an unforgettable evening for many of the participants of the forum with welcoming words from the Lord Mayor of Aachen, showing the importance of equestrian activities to the city of Aachen and putting a valuable historical perspective to the discussions.