08, July, 2022 2 Comments

For my first blog back after a long hiatus, I’m going to jump right in to something quite contentious. You’d expect nothing less.

I’m talking about the public perception of horse sport.

It’s time to play offence instead of defence.

How often have you found yourself going in to bat for equestrian sport in the aftermath of a disaster? After a catastrophic injury at an event or the death of a horse on the racetrack. 

These events are truly devastating for horse lovers everywhere. Our hearts go out to the connections and our sadness at the loss of an equine life is acutely felt.

There is much to be done at the highest level to improve safety and to ensure that horse welfare is always paramount. But when all that can be done is being done, better communication is needed.

We find ourselves needing to explain why we ride and why we participate in horse sport. We know that our horses are looked after like the royalty they are. We know that we put their wellbeing before our own and often before our family. We know that we feed them, we train them, we get them fit for their work. They have the best vet care, the best farriery, the best bodywork.

Yet how many of us celebrate that? How many of us talk about their needs and interests being met?

We are very quick to post on social media when we have a good day out at a show, or share an excellent training session, or that fantastic photo of the extreme effort over a jump or learning a new movement.

We need to get better at sharing the care. The grooming. The late night yard check. The farrier visit. The day we went for a hack instead of schooling. The decision not to compete because we weren’t quite ready to do our best. The moments of quiet in the stable. The choice not to start or to pull up mid round when things aren’t going well.

We need to tell the public that we ride because we love our horses. We need to show them that their welfare is always at the forefront of our minds. We need to showcase the journey, not just the trophies.

Welfare first, performance second. It’s time for us to tell the world.


2 Responses

Pam Stone
Pam Stone

17, August, 2022

Good point and well said. I think for most of us, our horse’s welfare comes first and ambition second. Or at least, that’s the way it should be.


17, August, 2022

You are, of course, absolutely right but sadly not all horse owners and riders have the same approach. Many “professional” horses routinely have all joints medicated, little turnout, lots of “schooling” & competitions. How often have we heard “Dobbin really hated dressage when I got him & was very slow to learn / naughty / found it very difficult – but now he’s really settled down” – i.e. given up trying to tell his human that he really doesn’t like what he’s being asked to do! Many are “too valuable” to be allowed to be a horse and are lucky to get a bit of hand grazing – no chance to be a normal animal at all. Dressage I think is particularly bad at this & Carl Hester has certainly improved things a lot, in the UK anyway, but the people who behave as you say are often the “happy hackers / pony patters” who love their horses till the day they die, not till the day they cease winning & compete now & then, delighted with ANY colour rosette! Obviously this only applies to some folk and many pro’s DO love their animals but for many they are a way to earn money, not spend it!!

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