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EIT Executive Dean appointed Chair of International Equestrian Commission

June 30, 2022

EIT Executive Dean Professor Natalie Waran has been appointed as Chair of an Independent Commission for the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

EIT’s Executive Dean, Professor Nat Waran, has been appointed Chair of a high-profile international independent Commission tasked with developing a framework to pro-actively address current and future societal concerns related to ethics and welfare of horse use in sport.

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), which is the world governing body for horse sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), announced the formation of the Independent Commission this month.

Professor Waran has a PhD in Applied Behaviour and Animal Welfare from Cambridge University and is regarded as a world leading expert in animal welfare science and education. Until arriving back in New Zealand in late 2016, she was the inaugural Director of the ‘Jeanne Marchig International Centre of Animal Welfare Education’, at the University of Edinburgh, and the International Dean for the Veterinary School.

Now the Executive Dean at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga, Professor Waran is a highly respected academic with responsibility for ensuring high quality education and applied research, whilst also leading the Institute’s professoriate. She was a foundation member of Poāri Akoranga, the Academic Board of Te Pūkenga, and the new rangahau and research subcommittee, and has been leading the development of a new research ethics framework for Te Pūkenga.

As an influential figure in the field of equine behaviour and welfare, and a co-founder of the relatively new area of equitation science, she has worked with a number of high profile equestrian organisations including the Hong Kong and UK Jockey Clubs, and charities such as World Horse Welfare, however Professor Waran was still surprised by this latest appointment.

“Although the invitation was unexpected, I am honoured to have been asked to lead this important work. By gathering external experts together to facilitate the development of a framework to address and advance the welfare needs of the sports horse, the FEI has taken a key step forward in terms of ensuring continuing social license,” says Professor Waran, who is a keen equestrian who owns and trains her own horses.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos says Social License to Operate (SLO) is the term given to society’s acceptance of the practice of equestrian sport and all its related activities.

“Equestrian sport and the FEI’s activities are more than ever under public scrutiny and through the Commission we want to embrace that scrutiny to drive change and shine the spotlight on our number one stakeholder – the horse.”

“This is our duty as the governing body responsible for equestrian sport, and this is why we have set up this important and independent Commission to allow us to move forward with a course of action that will strengthen equestrian’s place in society.”

Professor Waran will lead a 10-member Commission and is among the five members of the Commission considered as external to the FEI, with their selection based on consultation with equine veterinary, and welfare groups, while the remaining five members represent the FEI and have been selected for their experience, specific area of FEI responsibility and to provide the athletes’ and officials’ viewpoint.

Professor Waran says that in setting up the independent Commission, the FEI recognised the need to ensure the future of equestrian sports, by being willing to proactively address any concerns or criticisms from society or within equestrianism in a clear and transparent manner.

“By being willing to look to the horizon and address current and future challenges in relation to equestrian sports’ Social License to Operate, as well as to view change as a force for good, the FEI and its member organisations will provide the leadership required to help future-proof equestrian sports.”

EIT Chief Executive Chris Collins says Professor Waran’s appointment is well-deserved and indicated the respect that she is held in around the world.

“Professor Waran is an expert in her fields and is highly regarded internationally as an academic and researcher. On behalf of EIT, I congratulate Professor Waran on this appointment.”

Work is already underway, with the first online meeting of the FEI Commission for ethics and equine well-being having taken place earlier this month. An in-person two day workshop already planned to take place at FEI’s HQ in Lausanne, Switzerland just before the World Equestrian Games.   

The Commission is expected to work together over an initial period of 18-months, with an interim report to be presented at the FEI General Assembly in November 2022 in Cape Town (RSA), followed by a second report at the FEI Sports Forum in April 2023 and a final report/framework to be submitted for approval at the FEI General Assembly 2023 in Mexico.