Equestrian leaders to address public perception of horse sport

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The discussion will look at improving the public perception of the horse-human partnership and the use of horses in sport.
The discussion will look at improving the public perception of the horse-human partnership and the use of horses in sport. © World Horse Welfare

The public’s perception of the use of horses in sport is being discussed in an hour-long online event today by leaders from a wide range of equestrian sporting disciplines in Britain.

The expert panel will consider areas equestrian sport might look at to improve the horse-human partnership and the public understanding of it, and discuss the results of YouGov research highlighting public concerns about the involvement of horses in sport.

“Social licence and the involvement of horses in sport” is bringing together leaders in racing, polo and equestrianism to encourage a deeper conversation on how the different equestrian sports can work better together to address this issue and ensure the long-term sustainability of their respective activities.

Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, will deliver the keynote speech, and the panel discussion will be followed by questions and answers from viewers.

More than 2000 adults, representative of the UK population in terms of gender and socio-economic background, participated in the research in May 2022. The vast majority (94%) of respondents had little or no recent contact with horses and 45% had never had any contact with horses.

The research was commissioned by World Horse Welfare, an international charity that strives to support and improve the horse-human partnership in all its guises.

Key findings of the survey:

  • Two in five (40%) only supported the continued involvement of horses in sport if their welfare is improved, while 60% said there should be more safety and welfare measures in place in horse sports.
  • 16% felt their confidence in the protection of horse welfare in sport had been impacted negatively over the past 2-3 years in response to media coverage.
  • Over half (52%) felt that horse welfare should be prioritised more in communications.
  • One in five (20%) did not support the continued involvement of horses in sport under any circumstances.

Owers said it was the first survey the charity had undertaken on the topic, and the results “reflect the reality of the UK public’s perception of welfare in horse sport but we can and must turn this around”.

“The findings should be a wake-up call to everyone involved in equestrian sports that they are not as trusted with horse welfare as they need to be to maintain public support,” Owers said.

“Horse sport can rebuild that trust with the public and maintain support – its social licence to operate – and have a bright future, but only if it opens itself to change. We look forward to having these conversations and importantly, seeing action.”

The panel discussion is being chaired by journalist Lucy Higginson, and includes:

  • Madeleine Campbell, Senior Lecturer in human-animal interactions and ethics, RVC;
  • Pippa Funnell MBE, Olympic eventer;
  • Dr Barry Johnson, Chair of British Racing’s Horse Welfare Board;
  • Christian Landolt, Dressage rider and eventer, trainer and FEI ground jury member;
  • David Morley, Chair of the Hurlingham Polo Association Pony Welfare Committee

» Register for Social licence and the involvement of horses in sport, at 11am (GMT) on Tuesday, June 21.

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