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When does use of horses turn out to be abuse? Consultants to debate the problem

  • The question of when use of horses “tips over” into abuse will be the central theme of the 25th World Horse Welfare conference on 10 November.

    Experts from the equestrian industry and beyond will discuss “When does use become abuse?” at the event, at the Royal Geographical Society in London and virtually online, thanks to the sponsorship of the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust.

    The charity’s president, the Princess Royal, is expected to attend this event, which also features speakers from the US, Latin America, Europe and the UK. A “lively discussion is anticipated in light of the range of societal perspectives on what has become an increasingly challenging question”, a World Horse Welfare spokesman said.

    “The line drawn between acceptable use of horses and abuse has shifted in recent years as societal values evolve and the public – and many equestrians – have greater understanding of, and place a greater value on, the welfare of animals,” the spokesman added.

    “High-profile incidents in horse sport have prompted public concern, while debates on whether an equestrian’s traditional practices are or are not still acceptable increasingly erupt on social media.”

    The charity’s chief executive Roly Owers added that the “crucial link” between truly prioritising horse welfare and the sport’s social licence to operate is starting to be more recognised in the industry.

    “But this concept also applies much more widely to all uses of horses, be it horse riding, carriage driving, tourism, therapy, conservation grazing, rewilding and even keeping horses as companions,” he said. “What was previously acceptable is often no longer considered so but where is the line now drawn, and who decides?”

    Speakers include European Horse Network chair Mark Wentein, on “The horse in Europe: relevance and responsibilities”, Tamara Tadich, associate professor, Universidad Austral de Chile, on “Getting the balance right for working equids”, five-star eventer Matt Brown on “We all need to do better”, Charlesbye Strategy founder Lee Cain on “A matter of opinion” and Claire Bessant, Former CEO of International Cat Care, on “Cat welfare: When does use become abuse?”

    A discussion panel will be chaired by Sky News sports editor Nick Powell and comprising vet and World Horse Welfare trustee Sarah Coombs, vet Amber Batson, UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss, Bluebell Brown of the Royal Veterinary College and Racing Post journalist Lee Mottershead. The panel will “explore the theme further and take questions from the audience”, and the Princess Royal will add her views.

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