European Federation Sport Horse Welfare Study Moves to Next Phase

European Federation Sport Horse Welfare Study Moves to Next Phase

Earlier this year, the European Equestrian Federation (EEF) announced a partnership with the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation (SWF), to answer the fundamental question: “What sport horses have they need to benefit from a good level of well-being?” The SWF, founded by a world-leading group of scientists, attempts to answer this complex question by first defining the key areas of management that support a good quality of life for these animals. The initial and most extensive part of the study is now complete.

More than one hundred equestrian sports professionals and equestrian federations from more than twenty-four countries were questioned on the subject of well-being. Their knowledge, experience and opinions on the management, training, health and welfare of sport horses were collected through a Delphi study. The Delphi technique is mainly used when available knowledge is incomplete or subject to uncertainty in a field, and existing research is limited. They are systematic and structured rounds focusing on a given topic, which use the knowledge of the members of the invited expert panel to reach a consensus which is then reported.

The researchers were surprised by the impressive number of responses they received from the interviewees. “Participants ranging from team trainers and top riders to competition grooms, team veterinarians, farriers, national federations and scientists took part in the first phase of the study. ”describes Jane Williams, associate professor. “This first phase focused on determining the main topics that they believe should be included when discussing the welfare of sport horses. We received a multitude of interesting contributions from these exceptionally experienced professionals. The analysis is now complete and the group is pleased to announce that it is ready for the next stage of this groundbreaking study.”

“We are required to take care of our horses”, Rob Ehrens

One of the contributors who enthusiastically took part in the study was none other than Rob Ehrens, former coach of the Dutch show jumping team. Moreover, he considers it important that this research be undertaken. “We enjoy our wonderful sport every day, but we have to make sure we don’t use our horses as tools, just to be successful and make money. We are required to take care of our horses, we owe it to them. I think this study helps us to better frame the equine welfare discussion and provide tools for people who work with them. It will be in the interests of the horses. When they are even better managed, ridden and cared for, I think the sport will also reach a higher level.”

The next phase of the study includes the voting and evaluation of the final subjects by the experts in order to arrive at a consensus on all aspects of sport horse welfare. In the third phase, the appropriate way to assess these areas will itself be judged. Finally, the fourth phase of the study will consist of in-depth interviews with the experts in order to further explain and clarify the (sub)areas. The Delphi approach will be finalized towards the end of this year, after which the Sport Horse Welfare Foundation will analyze the final results and share initial findings with stakeholders. All results will then be presented in a series of online webinars, open to all stakeholders in the equestrian sector and anyone interested in this field.