Sporthorse Welfare Foundation

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Thursday 17th of November 2022

Sporthorse Welfare Foundation announces first president

November 2022: The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) has appointed its first president, Dr David Marlin from Cambridge (UK). Dr David Marlin is President of the (UK) National Equine Welfare Council and advisor to the FEI on Climate Management, and has been actively involved in promoting welfare of horses in sport for over 30 years.

The decision was made at the first in-person meeting of the SWF since its formation in early 2022. The meeting took place in Sweden and the majority of the SWF’s founding members, which comprises vets and scientists, were present. The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) is a not-for-profit, non-political member organisation that supports the use of horses for sport and leisure activities. It aims to undertake studies that will generate data to support evidence-informed approaches to sport horse management and training, which in turn can help inform practice and improve sport horse health, performance and welfare. The SWF has already embarked on its inaugural project with more than 100 equine professionals involved in equestrian sport and federations, representing over 24 countries around the world all of whom have been questioned about their views on equine welfare within horse sport.

Dr David Marlin said, “I am extremely honoured to have been nominated by my peers to take on this role. In my lifetime I have witnessed many improvements in the welfare of horses used in sport, but I believe there is still significant potential for further improvement. I am excited by the prospect of this role with SWF to ensure the enhanced wellbeing of sport horses across the globe.”

Further information on the SWF can be found at: https://sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com/

The founding members of the SWF are: Dr Jane Williams, Dr Carolien Munsters, Dr David Marlin, Dr Hayley Randle, Dr Michael Weishaupt, Dr Lars Roepstorff, Dr Hilary Clayton, Dr Lise Berg, Dr Katharina Kirsch and Dr Marianne Sloet.

The Sport horse Welfare Foundation (SWF) is a not-for-profit member organisation that supports the use of horses for sport and leisure activities; we are a non-political organisation of equestrian researcher and practitioners. We aim to undertake studies that generate data that can support evidence-informed approaches to sport horse management and training, which can help inform practice and improve sport horse health, performance and welfare. We commit to share this information freely across all levels of the equestrian industry from horse owners and keepers, to riders and coaches, to veterinary and supporting paraprofessionals, and including equestrian federations and regulatory bodies, for the benefit of the horse.

 

 

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

 

Groundbreaking study on sport horse welfare reaches next phase

 

What do sport horses need to experience a good level of welfare? The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF), founded by a group of leading scientists around the globe, is trying to answer this complex question by firstly defining key areas of sport horse management that promote a good quality of life. The initial and most extensive part of the study has now been completed.

More than 100 equine professionals involved in equestrian sport and federations, from over twenty-four countries around the world have been questioned about the subject of welfare; their knowledge, experience and opinions about sport horse management, training, health and welfare were collected in a Delphi-designed study[1]. The researchers were surprised by the overwhelming amount of input they received from the respondents. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jane Williams explains: “Participants ranging from team coaches, high level riders, competition grooms, team vets, farriers, national federations and scientists have taken part in the first round of the study. This first phase was focused on determining the core topic areas that, in their opinion, should be included when we discuss sport horse welfare. We received a wealth of interesting input from these exceptionally experienced professionals. The analysis has now been completed and the group are pleased to announce that they are ready for the next step of this groundbreaking study.”

One of the participants who enthusiastically participated in the study is former Dutch showjumping team coach Rob Ehrens. He believes it is important this research is being undertaken. “We enjoy our beautiful sport every single day. But we have to make sure we do not use our horses as a tool, just to be successful and gain money. We are obliged to take good care of our horses; we owe them that. I believe this study helps us to better define the discussion about the well-being of horses and offer tools to people who work with horses. It would be for the benefit of the horses and when they are managed, ridden and taken care for even better, I believe the sport will reach a higher level, too.”

The next phase of the study contains voting and rating the final topics by the experts to reach consensus about all aspects of sport horse welfare. In the third round, the appropriate way to assess these domains will be assessed. The fourth and final round of the study will entail in depth interviews with the experts to explain and clarify the (sub)domains even further.

The Delphi approach will be finalized around the end of this year, after which the SWF will analyse the final results and share the initial findings with supporting stakeholders. All results will then be presented during a series of online webinars, open for all equestrian stakeholders and anyone who has an interest in this area.

The SWF is a not-for-profit member organization founded by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jane Williams (UK), Dr. Carolien Munsters (NL), Dr. David Marlin (UK) and Prof. Dr. Michael Weishaupt (CH). For the complete list of founding members, please refer to the website – www.sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com. The SWF has already secured the support of the European Equestrian Federation, International Dressage Trainers Club and the national federations of Belgium, Germany, France, UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland; the Sport Horse Research Foundation; World Horse Welfare and Hartpury University.

[1] Delphi: The Delphi technique is primarily used when available knowledge is incomplete or subject to uncertainty in an area, and existing research is limited. Systematic and structured rounds focused on a given topic area utilising the knowledge among invited ‘expert’ panel members to gain consensus which is then reported; it is a method often applied in diverse fields of medicine.

 

 

 

Wednesday 8th of June 2022

The International Dressage Trainers Club joins with the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation to secure sport horse welfare

The International Dressage Trainers Club (IDTC) is happy to announce that they will join the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) in their project to come to a consensus on sport horses’ health and welfare. That statement will form the foundation of the discussion about equestrian sports. In this research project a huge number of equestrian professionals around the world – riders, grooms, trainers, veterinarians, scientists, farriers, owners and more – are consulted to share their wealth of experience and knowledge on sport horse welfare. The SWF wants to access and review their expertise and distil these recommendations to create an internationally approved shared agreement on best practice. The IDTC is helping the SWF to approach these experts, especially the riders and coaches, and get them involved.

Commenting on the collaboration, Dr. Jane Williams Head of Research: Associate Professor at Hartpury University UK says, “ Our objective is to collaborate with the best in the field to determine the ultimate ethical training and welfare blueprint for sport horses, primarily to safeguard the animals involved but also to protect and enhance the reputation of equestrian sports. Reaching out to the rider and coaches and allied equine professionals and getting them involved is essential. We want to include their opinion and together develop a consensus statement on sport horse welfare”.

“Horse welfare is the primary concern for horse trainers. Supporting the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation is a way for the International Dressage Trainers Club to be proactive in establishing norms for horse welfare. The lack of clarity surrounding horse welfare creates a negative overhang on our sport. By establishing a clear consensus we as trainers can better execute our responsibility to educate and enforce horse welfare” David Hunt, President International Dressage Trainers Club.

The SWF is a not-for-profit member organization founded by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jane Williams (UK), Dr. Carolien Munsters (NL), Dr. David Marlin (UK) and Prof. Dr. Michael Weishaupt (CH). For the complete list of founding members, please refer to the website – www.sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com. The SWF has already secured the support of the European Equestrian Federation, the International Dressage Trainers Club and the national federations of Belgium, Germany, France, UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland; the Sport Horse Research Foundation; World Horse Welfare and Hartpury University. The Foundation will be employing the Delphi-design method in its mission to collate opinions to reach a consensus position, with the scale of this study representing an industry first. Consensus provides scientists and practitioners with a solid foundation based on the knowledge and experience of experts in the field.

The project commenced in early 2022 and preliminary results are expected at the end of August which will be presented at EEF’s international meeting in September 2022. For more detailed information please visit www.sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com.

 

 

Tuesday 24th of May 2022 07:00 pm CEST time

Equine professionals around the globe unite to secure sport horse welfare

A group of elite equestrian scientists is launching an international initiative designed to establish best practice and clear guidance in the training and management of sport horses. The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) is bringing together equine professionals spanning 32 countries, all of which are involved in professionally developed equestrian sports. The aim of this project is to provide the equestrian world with a solid foundation about the good welfare needs of sport horses in particular.

Sport horses will benefit
A group of leading scientists around the world have come to the conclusion that in order to sustainably protect the welfare of sport horses, it is essential to determine what sport horses need to reach a good level of welfare. They founded the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) to look into that question. Commenting on the launch, Dr. Jane Williams Head of Research; Associate Professor at Hartpury University UK says, “Our objective is to collaborate with the best in the field to determine the ultimate ethical training and welfare blueprint for sport horses, primarily to safeguard the animals involved but also to protect and enhance the reputation of equestrian sports. Current scientific evidence pertaining to the welfare of sport horses is very limited because we are dealing with animals, who, of course, are unable to verbally communicate how they feel. There are however, a huge number of equestrian professionals around the world –  riders, grooms, trainers, veterinarians, scientists, farriers, owners and more – who share a wealth of experience and knowledge on this subject. We want to access and review their expertise and distil these recommendations to create an internationally approved shared agreement on best practice.”

At a time when equestrian sport is increasingly under the spotlight and the welfare of competitive sport horses is being regularly scrutinized, the SWF’s founding principle is to create a common ground between opponents of equestrian sports who have expressed concern regarding the wellbeing of the horses involved and the equestrians competing in the field, who recognize that optimum performance can only be achieved when a horse is healthy and happy. Roly Owers, Chief Executive from World Horse Welfare explains further “There is an urgent need for more evidence to explain or improve how the welfare of sport horses is protected in their daily management and training, so the work of the Foundation is highly relevant.  All of horse sport and indeed other horse owners will be able to benefit from the new information and data the Foundation generates, which will allow them to make informed decisions to ensure they are truly putting the welfare of the horse first. They would also have the objective evidence to prove this and communicate this to the public, and so help maintain the horse sector’s social license to operate.”

Unique study design

Over 150 highly experienced equestrian professionals from 32 countries and equine scientists will unite in this unique and pioneering collaboration. The group contains experts from the different disciplines like dressage and eventing and different kind of professionals from multiple fields. By combining the views of scientists, practitioners and competitors, it is hoped that a clear framework of guidance can be agreed upon. One of the founders Prof. Dr. Lars Roepstroff explains. “The goal is they come to a consensus on sport horses’ needs to feel good. That statement will form the foundation of the discussion about equestrian sports. It helps opponents to better place what they see in equestrian sport, but it would also offer equestrians tools to take better care of their horses. In the end, the horses in equestrian sports will benefit.”

The SWF is a not-for-profit member organization founded by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jane Williams (UK), Dr. Carolien Munsters (NL), Dr. David Marlin (UK) and Prof. Dr. Michael Weishaupt (CH). For the complete list of founding members, please refer to the website – www.sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com. The SWF has already secured the support of the European Equestrian Federation and the national federations of Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland; the Sport Horse Research Foundation; World Horse Welfare and Hartpury University. President of the EEF, Theo Ploegmakers, a collaborating partner of SWF, said; “We are delighted to be working on this project with the Sport horse Welfare Foundation. Promoting horse welfare is pivotal to our purpose but to date, there is no consensus on what horse welfare means and the standards that are expected. The eminent researchers involved in this initiative are at the forefront of equine science and are therefore best placed to make certain that the measures we take are backed by science and proven to improve the environment and experience for our elite equine athletes.”

The Foundation will be employing the Delphi-design method in its mission to collate opinions to reach a consensus position, with the scale of this study representing an industry first. Consensus provides scientists and practitioners with a solid foundation based on the knowledge and experience of experts in the field.

The project commenced in early 2022 and preliminary results are expected at the end of August which will be presented at EEF’s international meeting in September 2022. For more detailed information please visit www.sporthorsewelfarefoundation.com.

This project is kindly supported by:

   

 

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