Sporthorse Welfare Foundation

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Equine professionals around the globe unite to secure sport horse welfare

The Sporthorse Welfare Foundation (SWF) is bringing together 150 equine professionals spanning 32 countries, all of which are involved in professionally developed equestrian sports. They are launching an international initiative designed to establish best practice and clear guidance in the training and management of sport horses. The aim of this project is to develop a consensus statement to define management and training factors that can be used to promote sport horse health and welfare. It will provide the equestrian world with a solid foundation about the good welfare needs of sport horses in particular.

Sport horses will benefit

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. The SWF has 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. The 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. The SWF wants in this project to access and review their expertise and distil these recommendations to create an internationally approved shared agreement on best practice.

The Project

The method used, the so-called Delphi-design, in which expert’s opinions work to identify a consensus position, and the scale on which this study takes place, are unique in this debate. Consensus provides scientists and practitioners a solid foundation based on knowledge and experiences of the experts in the field.

Using the Delphi Method, we would like to facilitate the development of a Sport Horse Management and Training Consensus Statement. The Delphi method is a research technique using group communication to gain consensus from a panel of experts. We have selected your federation to participate as an equestrian nation that has participated and have being placed in equestrian competition within the last five Olympics Games.

Nominees will be invited personally to participate in the Delphi study; participation is voluntary and all data are collected anonymously. The study comprises between three and five stages. The first round will be aimed at gaining specific information on the key content of the consensus statement, for example which areas, should be measured in equine management and training. These answers would inform the next stage, sent as a questionnaire to gather further feedback; participants will be invited to rank the importance of measures related to equine health, performance and welfare within the consensus statement and add comments based on their professional, personal and/or research experience. The number of rounds in the study are determined by the degree of consensus of the panel of experts, with the last round providing a final opportunity to revise judgments.

The start of the Delphi exercise will be in May 2022 and we will present the preliminary findings at the international meeting of the EEF in September 2022.

This project has ethical approval from Hartpury University (ethics number: ETHICS2021-87).

A copy of the consensus statement developed by this project will be disseminated to all participating federations and organisations.


The SWF has already secured the support of the European Equestrian Federation and International Dressage Trainers Club and the national federations of Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom; 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.”

“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.

Supporting federations and organisations:


Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung e. V. (FN)

Federation Française D’Equitation (FFE)

Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS)

Royal Belgium rider federation (KBRSF)

Hartpury University

Sport Horse Research Foundation


Financial support of this research project is very welcome. There are three options to provide funding for this research: Silver (up to € 2’000 euro), Gold (up to € 4’000 euro) and Platinum (above € 4’000 euro). If you as a federation or organization also want to support this initiative or want more information about these options, please send an email to:



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