Equestrian sport? - the positive development continues
Things are difficult for the equestrian industry at present: On the one hand, the horse isn't as firmly anchored within the society as in the past. On the other hand, the equestrian sport continues to face criticism from the public. The national and international associations have now set themselves the goal of presenting the equestrian sport in the right light again.
Their chosen method: The social license to operate. The aim is to ensure that the equestrian sport gains the "social licence" of the society in future, that the sport is further optimised and then correspondingly perceived in a positive light.
What do leading equestrian industry representatives think about this social license?
Where is the equestrian industry headed?
Society's acceptance for the equestrian sport is endangered: Hyperflexion or poling, the pentathlon scandal in Tokyo, the State Studs that gobble up tax money - these are the bad headlines, the negative messages that unfortunately stick in the minds of non-equestrian athletes. Petitions against riding as an Olympic sport, a flood of advertisements against riders or the organisation Peta, which clearly campaigns against the use of the horse as a working animal - this all makes the life of riders and justifying their passion difficult. Now, the equestrian industry is starting a campaign called the "social license to operate", which not only promises more well-being for horses, but which also highlights the many nice sides of handling horses.
Are people allowed to use animals?
Not only riders are sailing against the wind: Since many people take a critical view of people using animals nowadays, they are very alert regarding possible misconduct. Not only in the feed production sector. Whether donkeys, elephants or camels as pack or riding animals or dolphins as show stars in leisure parks - the tourist industry is also noticing this increased sensitivity regarding the use of animals.
Keeping and using animals purely for enjoyment is increasingly frowned upon and scorned by society.
So, how does the equestrian sport have to change so that it can be practised in future with a good conscious? What has to change so that we can also continue to keep, breed and use horses for leisure activities? How can the horse regain its social standing in future and anchor itself firmly in the minds and hearts of society again?
Positive influence of horses
"Yes to the horse!" that is what Dr. Christina Münch from the Organisation "Horses for our Children" says. "The horse has been domesticated and has accompanied humans as a working animal, friend and helper for over 5,000 years. It is a prerequisite for the upturn and well-being of the industrialised world. In retrospect, dispensing with horses in the agricultural sector in the 1960s is a perfect example for the loss of the rural world and the disappearance of the farming community in the classic sense.
Since that time, from generation to generation our society's awareness for the proximity to the horse has decreased. In this way, the horse has largely disappeared from the broad base of society, especially in urban living environments, of course.
Whereby the horse still provides valuable services in many different sections of society - whether in the leisure or sport sector, but particularly in the educational and therapeutic section. "Our children learn comradeship, taking on responsibility, emotional stability, reliability, respecting nature, self-confidence and security through horses." Furthermore, according to Münch, "the horses teach our children to communicate honestly - which is extremely important particularly in this era of digitalisation. The children receive direct feedback to their actions, learn to handle the animals carefully and take on responsibility. I am of the opinion that horses have an earthing effect on our children and bring them into close contact with nature. And this is precisely why we think our society also needs the horse in the future!"
Horses for children - and for sport
There are actually many nice examples for the positive effect of horses on people especially on children - in kindergartens, schools or youth organisations. But companies are also using the partner horse in the meantime to teach communications and management style.
In order to bring people, who don't ride, closer to the horse and the theme riding, Dr. Christina Münch considers the personal contact to be particularly important and calls upon riders to not only show exemplary behaviour, but for instance for them to also actively seek a dialogue with pedestrians now and again when hacking out. "We call upon all horse lovers to actively communicate, pass on and make the fascination for horses experienceable."
Münch also has a clear opinion regarding the horse as a sports partner: So that horses can continue to be used in sport,
- the necessary knowledge regarding the well-being of the horse has to be ensured.
- independent checks have to be carried out.
- the existing animal protection regulations have to be enforced.
FN regulations protect the horse
The German Riding Association explains why the equestrian sport can also be justified today as follows: "The Animal Protection Act states that the use of horses is allowed as long as it doesn't impair their health and well-being. The rules, regulations, guidelines and ethical principles of the FN are even more far-reaching than the Animal Protection Act and provide the framework for the sport with horses." There is hardly any other animal that is protected against abuse by regulations and independent bodies more effectively than the sports horse. Furthermore, good training in accordance with the guidelines of the German Riding Association is a form of living (and ridden) animal protection. What's more, the FN is convinced that the equestrian athletes are not a fringe group, but indeed a cross-section of society.
Joint responsibility of the equestrian industry
As a representative of the equestrian sports industry, Jörg Stegemann, Business Director of the Swiss company, Effax, says: "In my opinion, the biggest challenge for the equestrian sport of the future is the establishment and preservation of its positive perception within the society.
Our aim must be to make non-horsey people understand what we do with our partner the horse. In addition to the affinity between the horse and rider, the way we handle the horse should promote its health, education and training."
In order to achieve a positive image, the entire equestrian sector (industry, mass sports, competition sports, organisers, associations, breeding segment) have to pull in the same direction and include the public in the communications, Stegemann demands: "Every single equestrian person has to be aware that he is responsible for making sure his hobby and his passion for the horse always serve as a role model. At least ten good impressions are needed to make up for one bad impression. Thus, it must be our joint aim to create many positively charged moments across the industry for the good of our horses and the equestrian sport."
spoga horse invites people to the Talk Round on the social license to operate
"The social license theme is very decisive for spoga horse, since the question as to whether and in what form we can carry on dedicating ourselves to horses as leisure and sports partners in future, particularly occupies the equestrian sport industry of course. In addition to the many personal discussions with our exhibitors, where we contemplate how we can further optimise the conditions for the horses, we are also lending the topic an official platform at spoga horse so that sufficient attention is drawn to the theme. For example, there was a Talk Round with the association Pferde für unsere Kinder e.V. at 4 p.m. on 05.02.2023 on the main platform, THE STAGE. The focus of this discussion was the social license to operate. We want horses to continue to be a key element of our lives and we always strive to do our very best to this end," explains Dr. Maria Näther, Director of spoga horse. The discussion can be watched on demand after the event till the end of march on the digital platform spoga horse @home.