Category Archives: General

New Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission – Report – 19/11/22

New Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission presents first report to FEI members

19 November 2022

For immediate release

The Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWB) for the FEI delivered its first report to FEI delegates at the FEI General Assembly (GA) in Cape Town (12 November).

The independent EEWB was founded in June 2022 to address equine welfare issues of public and equestrian concern to ensure the welfare of the horse is paramount – and so strengthen horse sport’s ‘social licence’ to operate. The Commission, which meets monthly, immediately commissioned two substantial surveys to provide concrete data to help shape its proposals.

The surveys were conducted in English, Spanish and French; one designed for horse enthusiasts, the other for the general public. Almost 28,000 equestrians – including almost 8,000 FEI affiliates – responded to the former from 116 countries, and more than 14,000 people from 14 nations were surveyed in the latter.

Full details of the methodology and findings can be viewed at the EEWB Commission’s new website at https://equinewellbeing.fei.org/key-documents.html. Amongst the key findings were:

  • Clear evidence that both equestrians (75% of those surveyed) and the general public (65%) have concerns about the welfare of horses in sport
  • 67% of the general public, and 50% of surveyed equestrians, believe horses sometimes or never enjoy being used in sport
  • 78% within the equestrian community and 52% of the public believe welfare standards need to improve
  • The six priority areas amongst equestrians are: 1) training and riding/tack and equipment; 2) recognizing physical and emotional stress; 3) accountability/enforcement/knowledge; 4) the other 23 hours; 5) competitive drive/horses seen as a number 6) not fit to compete/masking health problems.
  • There is general optimism (77% of equestrians) for horses’ future use in sport, but only with welfare improvements
  • Equestrian stakeholders consider that for horses’ welfare to be improved: current welfare rules must be better enforced; new welfare rules should be informed by science; and those involved with horses should have a required level of equine welfare knowledge

From these findings, the EEWB Commission has made six initial recommendations which range from tack and equipment issues (eg. double bridles no longer being mandatory in Grand Prix dressage) to education (an Education Focus Group is being established to review and adapt horsemanship teaching as necessary).

A list of further sources used by the EEWB in producing its tack and equipment recommendations is also available on Commission’s new website at https://equinewellbeing.fei.org/key-documents.html .

Professor Dr Natalie Waran, Chair of the EEWB, told delegates: “As the Commission, we will be blunt. We will be direct and we will tell you the truth. But in the end we will be here with you. There is change that needs to happen and we are here to develop a strategy, provide objective advice, make recommendations and then see how these recommendations can be put into operation.

“I am pleased FEI members recognize that the data from the surveys is extremely valuable to identify concerns as well as suggested courses of action to mitigate them. While it’s clear that change is needed, I am confident that the FEI, the National Federations and equestrians around the world are committed to the journey. The work of the Commission will provide the structure, set the direction and help with navigating the actions that can be taken, but it will be the ongoing leadership of the FEI and work at local level that will help ensure that equine welfare is fully prioritized – and seen to be so – and so help equestrianism maintain its social licence.”

She then outlined the EEWB’s strategy to address social licence based on six main pillars: evidence, education, engagement, effective regulation, enforcement and empowerment. Commission member Professor Kathalijne Visser, who led the analysis of the survey results, presented the key findings and where there were differences in perspectives within equestrian audiences.

The Q&A session at the GA enabled open and positive discussion between delegates and EEWB members for the first time on a wide range of topics. The EEWB’s strategic roadmap will now be further developed and consulted on at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2023.

Media notes on the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission

  • The committee was founded in June 2022 to address societal concerns about the uses of horses in sport. It meets monthly (on Zoom or in person).
  • Its purpose is to find courses of action that will strengthen equestrianism’s place in society. It will develop an evidence-based welfare strategy to guide FEI regulations, policies and practices, as well as to enable effective advocacy and influence relating to the ethics and wellbeing of horses in sport.
  • The Commission comprises 10 people, five of them nominated representatives of the FEI and five who are external to it. It is chaired by Professor Dr. Natalie Waran (NZL), an internationally respected equine behaviour and welfare expert.
  • Find out more about it at equinewellbeing.fei.org.

Area 5 – Keeping you and horses cool and hydrated – 14/07/22

COMPETING IN THE HEAT

With the hot weather forecast we thought that these tips would be useful. On the whole horses cope better than us in the heat.

BEFORE THE COMPETITION

  1. CLIPPING; Some rather hairy horses may benefit from being clipped, particularly older horses greys or coloureds, who tend to be hairy and some black horses struggle as they absorb more heat. (be careful to protect coloureds with a white sheet for the first week after clipping as they easily burn where they are pink)
  2. SUNCREAM; Apply high factors liberally to pink noses.
  3. SALT or ELECTROLYTES can be added to food during hot weather, the salt will help make them drink more, the balanced electrolytes will replace those lost in sweat.
  4. FEED SOAKED HAY or SPEEDY BEET remember our ponies are used to eating lush grass but currently for most of us they are eating ‘standing hay’ or have no grass at all so it is much more likely for them to get a colon impaction than usual.

AT THE COMPETITION

  1. WATER; take plenty of drinking water for your horse and offer regularly. There maybe water at the venue but horses are more likely to drink water from home. Always use your own buckets for hygiene reasons
  2. WASHING OFF; research by Dr David Marlin shows that we should wash horses off with large amounts of water ALL OVER and NOT scrape it off as they cool fastest by evaporation – ‘a wet horse cools quicker than a dry one’.
  3. SHADE; make the best of if where you can, remember stationary lorries and trailers do get very hot.
  4. COOLING LEGS; again recent research shows that some form of ICE boot or simply ICE cube freezer bags placed over a wet jay cloth are the most efficient way to cool legs (water boots were actually found to heat the leg over time and trap the heat; so better to wash the leg and allow evaporation than to use these if you don’t have ice wraps)

SIGNS OF OVERHEATING

The signs vary, some horses become dull and less responsive but often they look very agitated, initially the handler may think that they are playing up, they may seem wobbly or some may scrape the ground and try to get down. They tend to have high respiratory rates and heart rates and will have a raised rectal temperature (above the normal 38.3) In reality they are often too agitated to examine well so immediate cooling with a lot of water all over is needed first.

PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF OVERHEATING IN HORSES

The following advice is the current best-practice for preventing and treating overheating in horses, with credit to the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) and the Racecourse Association.

Overheating or Heat Stress is a serious condition that has a huge impact on the horse’s welfare. It is possible to reduce the likelihood of overheating by considering the following:

  • Horses should have constant access to water.
  • When hot or humid consider cooling on arrival at an event, again before riding and immediately after riding.
  • Cooling is best achieved by applying large amounts of cold water over the large muscles of the shoulders and hindquarters. Repeat this process until the water on the horse is still cool to the touch after about 30 seconds in-contact.
  • Horses should be kept walking as it helps create a slight breeze which aids evaporation.
  • Saddles and numnahs contribute to overheating after riding and should be removed as soon as possible.  Do not apply sheets or rugs
  • Signs of Heat Stress include anxiety, agitation, wobbling, staggering and trying to go down. If you notice any of these signs KEEP THE HORSE MOVING AND REQUEST VETERINARY ASSITANCE IMMEDIATELY.