Sport horse mental health in spotlight with leading researcher

Alex Hua Tian and FBW Chico at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Alex Hua Tian and FBW Chico at the 2008 Olympic Games. The event rider is taking part in a webinar on ethics in horse sport. © Beijing Olympic Games

The sporting demands that are made on horses and the effects on their mental wellbeing is the topic of a free webinar led by researcher Professor Madeleine Campbell.

“How to keep horse sport ethical” is the latest webinar from World Horse Welfare’s summer series. Among several topics, Campbell will provide her perspective on the ethics of riding horses, ethical enhancement of equine performance, and when to call it a day.

Campbell’s latest research on the topic, An Ethical Framework for the Use of Horses in Competitive Sport: Theory and Function, was published in the journal Animals last month.

Campbell holds several senior positions in British universities and veterinary organisations relating to animal welfare and ethics, and she is uniquely placed to guide owners through the maze of ethical questions that confronts those who keep horses.

Following her presentation, Campbell will be joined by three-day-event rider Alex Hua Tian, and John Burns, one of World Horse Welfare’s Field Officers who has extensive experience in equestrian competition. The trio will discuss practical issues surrounding the ethics of horse sport. This will lead into a Q&A session in which viewers will have the chance to ‘ask the experts’ any questions they may have on the topic.

The webinar is being held in conjunction with the University of Nottingham.

Other webinars in this series on equine mental wellbeing, which will run on July 28 and August 25, will feature Tony Evans, John Francome, Caroline Heard, Brad Hill, Dr Andrew McLean, and Dr Gemma Pearson.

» Register for the webinar, on June 23 at 7pm (GMT), to take part in the various polls and ask questions during the Q&A.


Madeleine Campbell is Professor of Veterinary Ethics at Nottingham Vet School and Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Human: Animal Interactions at the Royal Veterinary College. She currently chairs the British Veterinary Association’s Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel and is a Past President of the British Equine Veterinary Society. As an equine vet, horse owner and breeder, Madeleine has a particular research interest in equestrian ethics and has recently been funded by World Horse Welfare to undertake research in that area and to develop an ethical framework for the use of horses in sport.

Alex Hua Tian first came to public attention during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the age of 18, where he was both the youngest ever eventing competitor, and China’s first representative. Since then, through his results and his activities off the field of play, Alex has become the face of the rapid growth of Chinese equestrianism. Alex has won two individual medals at the Asian Games, finished 8th individually at the 2016 Rio Olympics with his long-term partner, Don Geniro, and is the only person to have won two FEI Awards: in 2009 he won the FEI Rising Star Award and, in 2019, the FEI awarded him their Solidarity Award for co-founding The Horsemanship Movement. Recently, Alex spearheaded the Chinese eventing team in its first-ever qualification for an Olympics at Tokyo 2020.

John Burns has been a World Horse Welfare Field Officer since 2009. He is also the Director of Welfare and Breeding for HorseScotland, which is the national organisation for all equestrian sports and activity in Scotland, and he champions equine welfare at the level of the Scottish Parliament through his involvement in two cross-party groups: Animal Welfare and Scottish Horseracing and Bloodstock Industries. In addition, he is Chairman of the Scottish arm of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC). John has a strong background in equestrianism, having grown up breeding and showing Clydesdales and riding in Pony Club and now being involved – through his children – in many disciplines, from tetrathlon through to FEI eventing. This diverse experience stands him in good stead in his many roles in the equine industry.

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