Over the years society is more aware of animal welfare and the general public have a bigger interest in animal welfare. This is a great thing for animals. However, with this increased interest in animal welfare, there is also an increase in the general public questioning how animals are treated in sports. There will always be ethical or welfare issues with using animals in sport, but this increased awareness and critisim means all horse sport need to be open to change. If the equine industry refuses to acknowledge and embrace feedback from the general public, horse sports might become extinct.
New Survey Results
Recently World Horse Welfare commissioned and independant survey to find out what the general public think about horses being used in sport. 20% of responders said they couldn’t support the continued use of horses in sport under any circumstances. This should ring alarm bells that the general public is concerned about the welfare of our horses!
40% of responders said they would only support the continuation of horses in sport if their welfare was improved and 60% said there should be more safety and welfare measures in equestrian sports.
We need to be more transparent about horse welfare
When you are involved in a horse sport, it is easier to see all the great things what are being done to improve horse welfare and how well looked after horses are. But this isn’t always easy to see for the general public who might just be flicking through the sports during the Olympics or just watching the big race festivals. This is where we could be missing a big trick.
Shout about improvements
All horse sports spend a lot of time and money on research what can either improve horse safety and/or horse welfare. But how well do we share this outside of our bubble? I don’t think we do that very well at all. I think horse sports need to do more to get these improvements out infront of the general public. Some welfare improvements made recently include:
- Changing the colour of fences in national hunt racing to make them easier for the horse to see.
- Showing judges & vets speak out about some issues in showing.
- New whip rules coming in to reduce overuse of the whip in horse racing.
- Trimming whiskers banned by FEI in competition.
- A new safety net for horses retiring from racing.
Share the love
Another thing we should be doing as a sport is showing everything behind the scenes. So much time and work goes into producing competition horses. But most of what we see is the finished articles and most of what we share is the competition results.
We should all be doing more to highlight how well looked after the horses are behind the scenes. Sharing photos and videos of horses having a groom and cuddles with their owner/groom shows how much love they have for them. Opening yards up to visitors helps people see how well looked after they are first hand. Citing research to explain why we are doing things a certain way can really help educate people and show them that we know that happy, healthy horses perform the best, so that is what we all strive for.
Shoutout to ITV Racing!
ITV Racing often gets a bit of stick on Horse Racing forums for cattering too much to the masses. But I personally think this is a great thing! I think they do a really good job of explaining all the facilities at the racecourse to improve horse welfare, such as the number of vets attending, the farriers, the misting fans to cool them down. They also do a really good job of briefly covering some issues such as the proposed new whip rules, the use of the whip, the use of different tack etc. One of my favourite features they do is the Home Schooling and other home videos of racehorses working and being looked after at home. You get to see just how well looked after and loved they are.