New commission to advise on horse sport’s social license to operate

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The FEI has appointed the Social License to Operate Commission to develop a practical framework that will allow it to address current and future concerns related to the use of horses in sport.
Photo by Katy Wrathall

A commission to help horse sport maintain its social license to operate has been announced by the world governing body for equestrian disciplines.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) appointed the Social License to Operate Commission to develop a practical framework that will allow it to address current and future concerns related to the use of horses in sport.

Social license to operate refers to society’s general acceptance of the practice of equestrian sport and its related activities.

“Equestrian sport and the FEI’s activities are more than ever under public scrutiny and through the Commission we want to embrace that scrutiny to drive change and shine the spotlight on our number one stakeholder – the horse,” FEI president Ingmar De Vos said.

“There are comprehensive systems and mechanisms in place to protect the welfare of the horse, but there is more that can be done, and more that must be done.

“And in an ever-changing society, where perceptions shift and norms evolve at an increasingly fast pace, the FEI must address these concerns and criticisms from society and within equestrian circles in a clear and transparent manner.

Professor Natalie Waran
Professor Natalie Waran

“This is our duty as the governing body responsible for equestrian sport, and this is why we have set up this important and independent commission to allow us to move forward with a course of action that will strengthen equestrian’s place in society.”

The 10-member commission will be chaired by Professor Dr Natalie Waran, an internationally respected equine welfare expert who is Professor of One Welfare and executive dean at the Eastern Institute of Technology (Te Pūkenga) in New Zealand.

Waran is among five commission members considered as external to the FEI, with their selection based on consultation with equine welfare and veterinary groups, while the remaining five members represent the FEI and have been selected for their experience, specific area of FEI responsibility, and to provide the viewpoint of athletes and officials.

Waran says she is honoured to have been asked to lead the work. “By gathering external experts together to facilitate the development of a framework to address and advance the welfare needs of the sports horse, the FEI has taken a key step forward in terms of social license.

“By being willing to look to the horizon, and address current and future challenges in relation to equestrian sports’ Social License to Operate, as well as to view change as a force for good, the FEI and its member organisations will provide the leadership required to help future-proof equestrian sports,” Waran said.

The first meetings of the commission, which has yet to be formally named, will take place this month and will include plans for engagement with various stakeholders and the focus and composition of working groups.

The commission is expected to work together over an initial period of 18 months, with an interim report to be presented at the FEI General Assembly in November 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa, followed by a second report at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2023. A final report/framework is to be submitted for approval at the FEI General Assembly 2023 in Mexico.

Commission members:

    • Professor Dr. Natalie Waran, external expert, Professor of One Welfare and Executive Dean at the Eastern Institute of Technology (Te Pūkenga) in New Zealand (chair).
    • Professor Kathalijne Visser-Riedstra, external expert, Professor (UAS) Human-Animal Interactions at Aeres University of Applied Sciences – Almere, Flevoland, The Netherlands
    • Dr Camie Heleski, external expert, Senior Lecturer College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA
    • Dr Madeleine Campbell, external expert, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Interactions & Ethics, Royal Veterinary College University of London
    • Ms Jessica Stark, external expert, World Horse Welfare Communication & Public Affairs Director
    • Mr Theo Ploegmakers, European Equestrian Federation President, FEI Board Member
    • Mr Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, Spanish jumping rider – International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC)
    • Mr Ken E. Lalo, CAS Arbiter, former chair of the FEI Tribunal, President of the Israel Equestrian Federation
    • Ms Sabrina Ibanez, FEI Secretary General, APSO President
    • Mr Cesar Hirsch, FEI Judge and Steward Level 3 and president of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation (PAEC)

Ex Officio administrative and logistic support will be provided by Dr Francisco Lima, FEI Director Governance & Institutional Affairs, and Ms Barbara Rodel, manager of the FEI President’s Office.

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