THE appointment by British Equestrian (BEF) of a new independent advisory body, comprised of some of the world’s most foremost experts in their respective fields, sends out a powerful signal of their stated intention of putting improved equine welfare and ethical standards at the very heart of horses in equestrian sport.

The BEF is to be rightly applauded with this move. It helps ensure there is less ‘vacant space’ which other less informed but vocal voices may seek to inform the narrative in the crucial area of the all-important social licence over the use of animals in the sporting arena. Racing has its structures in this regard well in place but less so in the equestrian and leisure sectors where standards can, and do, vary enormously.

Professor Madeleine Campbell, a leading expert in the field of animal ethics, welfare and law, will chair the Equine Welfare and Ethics Advisory Group which at its core, seeks to provide evidence-based best practice, recommendations on key issues within equestrian sport and promote ethical horse/human relationship. To be clear this new group has not been set up to defend the use of horses in sport, rather to champion further improved equine welfare standards, safeguarding issues and the social licence for the use of equines in sport. CEO of World Horse Welfare, Roly Owers MRCVS, is among the new board as is John McEwen, BEF Director of Equine Sport Science and Medicine. The latter thanked the group for what he termed “their direct action to address the serious threat to equestrian sports while ensuring the best wellbeing outcome for the horse’’.

Could the Irish equestrian sector take a leaf out of their book? Food for thought perhaps for the coming new year...

Happy New Year

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