World Horse Welfare, an international charity that strives to support and improve the horse human partnership in all its guises, is hosting a panel discussion with leading equestrian figures about public perceptions of the involvement of horses in sport, and what more equestrian sports can, and need, to do to ensure continued public support.
In advance of this discussion, World Horse Welfare commissioned YouGov to conduct independent research to explore public opinion on the welfare of horses in sport. Over 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 percent) of respondents had little or no recent contact with horses and 45 percent had never had any contact with horses.
Key findings were:
- Two in five (40 percent) only supported the continued involvement of horses in sport if their welfare is improved, while 60 percent said there should be more safety and welfare measures in place in horse sports
- 16 percent felt their confidence in protection of horse welfare in sport had been impacted negatively over the past two to three years in response to media coverage
- Over half (52 percent) felt that horse welfare should be prioritised more in communications
- One in five (20 percent) did not support the continued involvement of horses in sport under any circumstances
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare said: “This is the first survey we have undertaken on this important subject, and 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. I am afraid that the results of our survey reflect the reality of the UK public’s perception of welfare in horse sport but we can and must turn this around.
“As a charity that supports the responsible involvement of horses in sport we are, today, 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.
“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.”
Five leading figures in British equestrian sport are debating these findings and the issue of “Social Licence” in equestrian sport at an online World Horse Welfare event today at which both the media and key equestrian sporting bodies will be present. The panel will consider areas equestrian sport might look at to improve the horse-human partnership and the public understanding of it.
The panel discussion at the event is taking place at 11am on Tuesday 21 June will be chaired by journalist Lucy Higginson and involve:
- 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