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EIT Te Pūkenga Emeritus Professor presents important findings to equestrian sport forum in Mexico

January 31, 2024

EIT Te Pūkenga Emeritus Professor Nat Waran has presented an Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission’s report in Mexico.

EIT|Te Pūkenga Emeritus Professor Nat Waran has presented an Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission’s final report to a general assembly of equestrian sport’s governing body in Mexico.

Professor Waran has recently been appointed as the Director  of a new initiative aimed at ‘raising the bar’ for animal welfare through the creation of a ‘Good Life for Animals’ research and education Centre funded through Companion Animals New Zealand. She was appointed chair of the ten person strong Commission by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) and has spent the past 18 months working to understand and then address public perception of horse use in sport, as well as developing recommendations for the FEI Board to ensure equines have a good life when involved in sport.

“The FEI wanted to ensure that the involvement of horses in sport maintained its Social License to Operate or in other words remained socially acceptability bearing in mind, that social values change through generations.”

“There appears to be evidence of public concerns about, not just horses being used or involved in sport, but also, whether we should even be using horses for leisure activities.”

Professor Waran, who was previously Executive Dean and Professor of One Welfare at EIT, says her team undertook in-depth analysis and ran surveys of both the public and equestrians, as well as holding stakeholder engagement, webinars and presentations.”

The result is a 50-page report that provides background information, results of the survey and engagement work as well as collating available research regarding equine behaviour and welfare needs, resulting in 30 recommendations provided to the FEI Board.

“The recommendations address areas that relate directly to Social License to Operate, around leadership, transparency, accountability, credibility, and being proactive in addressing concerns from the public or the equestrians themselves.”

“We also provided the FEI with what we’re calling the Equestrian Charter, which is a pledge of commitment to the horse, recognising the horse as a sentient being capable of feeling both positive and negative emotions, and holding each equestrian responsible for the wellbeing of their horse(s). .”

“We provided detailed information about what we’re calling the six priority areas of focus. These were derived from the analysis of the ‘free text’ question within the survey we carried out of more than 28,000 equestrian stakeholders from more than 130 countries around the world .”

Professor Waran says that of the six priority areas of focus, the main one related to training and riding, tack and equipment.

“Many of the survey respondents expressed their concerned about how we train horses,  how we ride them, and what we ask of them, as well as the devices or equipment we use on them. In the final report, we have specific recommendations to address these concerns as well as making use of current research to provide evidence of where there may be welfare risks to the horse. ”

The next step is for the FEI Board to look closely at the Commission’s final recommendations.

“They have committed to putting together an action plan, which will be discussed at their Sports Forum, which is an open discussion forum held in April, in Switzerland.”

Whilst this may be the end of the Commission’s work under its terms of reference, Professor Waran remains involved with advocating for a Good Life for Horses, and is especially delighted to be chairing the conference organising committee for the International Society for Equitation Science’s Conference which will be held for the first time in New Zealand in March 2024.

‘With the conference theme being ‘A Good Life for Horses’, it was great to be able to welcome the FEI as one of the conference’s major sponsors’, she says.