08.–10.02.2025 #spogahorse

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Cover story or side note - how sustainable is equestrian sport?

It is the topic of the century - perhaps even of the millennium: sustainability. Equestrians are close to nature and animals. But what about their pioneering role in sustainability, the leitmotif of our time?

A look at the industry reveals: The importance that sustainability currently has in equestrian sports is "expandable." The movement toward sustainability is only taking place gradually and not in great leaps.


Manufacturers as drivers of sustainability

The first to raise their green thumbs and focus on sustainability in the manufacture of their products are the manufacturers. It is important to them to bring sustainable products to the market and to the customer.

But, what exactly makes a product a "sustainable" product?

Manufacturing in harmony with nature and people is THE core of the sustainability philosophy. In concrete terms, this means that production takes place under fair working conditions and that resources are used efficiently and sparingly during production, and that ecological materials are used. In addition, the products must be distributed with as little packaging and as few emissions as possible. In short, the ecological footprint left by a sustainable product should be as small as possible.

However, it is not always possible to implement this requirement. The use of organic or eco-fibers is to be welcomed. Making equestrian equipment from recycled plastic fibers, on the other hand, makes less sense than it might seem at first glance.

Recycling for equestrian textiles - sensible strategy or marketing bubble?

Technically, say textile researchers, converting PET into yarns, for example, is certainly possible. But making a jacket, pants or horse blanket from bottles doesn't make much sense ecologically or economically, and critics condemn it as a marketing bubble: For two reasons: First, bottle recycling in Germany is a really well-functioning cycle and the effort to recycle a bottle into a bottle is incomparably less than just turning it into fashion. The recycling process, from collection to washing, decoloring and melting, requires enormous amounts of energy and chemicals.

On the other hand, the recycling plants are usually located in Asia, where not enough old PET bottles are collected. Therefore, the PET bottles actually travel from Europe and America halfway around the world in a CO2-intensive process in order to be recycled in a "sustainable" manner.

Textile engineers also reject the collection of trash from the seabed for recycling reasons: "First of all, it is unfortunately the case that these collection campaigns usually only take place very singularly, namely when camera teams are on site. So not enough material comes together at all. In addition, not all plastics are the same - and all the different types of plastic that sit on the seabed for years have little to do with the plastic that could be used for recycling.

Even the recycling of clothing into new clothing does not work without problems. Many mixed fabrics are not suitable for recycling. And if the basic textile is recyclable, everything that is not fiber must first be removed: zippers, buttons, decorative seams, patches and all plingpling. A laborious process. Once fibers have been recycled, they cannot be recycled a second time.

Where recycling does work is in the packaging sector. Here it is precisely the companies ofcare and feed products very actively and are creating not only sustainably packaged products, but also an exemplary solution towards the zero waste packaging trend with the option of refilling. Ingredients are also increasingly being put together with sustainability in mind.

Both in the textile sector and in the manufacture of care products and animal feed, manufacturers are paying attention to energy-saving framework conditions. In addition, traditional companies in particular are increasingly manufacturing in Germany again. This is a positive trend: after all, if a pair of breeches first had to fly around the world to end up on the retailer's shelf and finally in the customer's closet, this is clearly not the right path toward sustainability from a logistical point of view. Moreover, working conditions in this country are significantly better than in the Far East, for example.

Equestrian clothing

Retailers act sustainably

Many equestrian retailers are only now realizing that equestrian sports in particular, as a "green sport," should take a pioneering role in awareness of the environment, of fair behavior all around.

Asked about its commitment to sustainability, the specialist trade reacted almost embarrassingly until recently. In the meantime, however, they are acting sustainably - and on two core levels:

Retailers themselves are trying to make their day-to-day work sustainable: Whether in the office, in the store design of their stationary stores or even in saving energy, they are aware of their special responsibility in times of climate change. In addition, they rely on environmentally friendly procedures for packaging and shipping.

But also with the selection of the products one pays attention in the equestrian sport specialized trade today to have at least a few "green" and ecological valuable goods in the assortment and to advise these also accordingly forced.

Only little interest - Armutszeugnis for king customer

The majority of riders are leisure riders and as such like to spend a lot of time in nature. That this is worth protecting, one considers perhaps on other levels, with the consumption of equestrian sport specialized articles however the lastingness consciousness of the riders is expandable. Manufacturers and retailers are still noticing this and are deliberately excluding this topic from sales talks. It is, so the experience of the specialized dealers, quality arguments, with which one can bring also products from the more highly priced segment well at the customer. In fact, the only example of increased environmental awareness on the part of customers is plastic bags. They are being avoided.

Customers, for their part, complain that sustainably produced products are not advertised appropriately and are certainly not given priority in terms of advice. Sizes, fits, material and design wishes are asked for, but it is never mentioned which production route a snaffle, a pair of breeches or a pair of boots has gone through?

So it seems that the buck stops with each other when it comes to green products.

spoga horse - Towards an even more sustainable trade fair

spoga horse is also constantly taking steps to make its trade fair operations even more sustainable. In addition to paper-free communication with exhibitors and visitors, as well as dispensing with disposable containers in the catering area, the organizers are completely dispensing with carpeting in the aisles, which previously had to be disposed of at the end of the trade fair. Thanks to the new "eSlot" logistics management system, the trade fair's logistics also run with significantly lower emissions. Koelnmesse, the organizer of spoga horse, only recently committed to reducing Koelnmesse's CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. The many measures already implemented to achieve this goal can be viewed at the following link:

Thinking in cycles - how sustainability really works

Sustainable production and marketing - is that enough to elevate equestrian sports to a green level? Not by a long shot! There needs to be a rethink in manufacturing, marketing, as well as consumption. Ultimately, the linear economy must yield to a circular economy. The successful path of sustainability leads from overconsumption to moderate, responsible and yet joyful consumer behavior, which can be served accordingly by retailers and manufacturers.