Charter for the Horse: a unified approach to safeguarding our equines and equids

British Equestrian (BEF), their 19 member bodies and associated industry leaders have united to commit to endorse the highest standards of equine welfare, wellbeing and ethics under a new ‘Charter for the Horse’, launched today.

The Charter for the Horse has been developed with BEF stakeholder groups to be adopted across the equestrian industry by all who have a connection to horses and equids. Under the five headings of empathy, care, respect, consideration, ethics and learning, the Charter outlines actions we must observe to guarantee the individual mental, physical and behavioural needs of our horses are met.

The Charter encompasses the essence of the FEI Equestrian Charter, composed by the Fédération Équestre Internationale’s (FEI) independent Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission (EEWC) and released at the FEI Sport Forum in April 2023. This edition covers international equestrian sport, while the British Equestrian version is there for all in this country who interact with horses, at every level and in any activity for sport, hobby or leisure. Existing principles, codes and guidance from across the member bodies were distilled into a document that all equestrians can unite under and pledge to work to the values and principles outlined.

Carl Hester, one of Britain’s most successful equestrians with 15 championship medals to his credit and a leading advocate for equine wellbeing, added his endorsement to the Charter; “I’m delighted to see the release of this Charter – it’s such a positive move for our industry and unites us under one common aim. I always treat my horses as horses first, athletes second to support their mental and physical wellbeing, which means they can perform at their happy best on the world stage. I’d love to see everyone join together in showing support for the Charter and turning the words into action, for the good of all horses throughout the country.”

At the heart of the Charter are the internationally recognised  ‘three Fs’ of freedom, friends and forage, and the five domains model (Mellor et al., 2020) which cite nutrition, physical environment, health, behavioural interactions and mental state as the crucial factors for an animal’s positive experience.

As part of the ongoing commitment to the highest welfare standards, the British Equestrian Board and Equine Wellbeing and Ethics Advisory Group (EWEAG), chaired by Professor Madeleine Campbell, has also been working on extensive revisions to the British Equestrian rule book and Equine Ethics and Welfare Policy, which underpin the Charter. The enhanced welfare provision will sit within an Integrity Framework of core policies around safeguarding of children and adults, anti-doping rules for human and equine athletes, competition manipulation, and equine ethics and welfare.

The EWEAG members reviewed the EEWC interim report carefully and have worked a number of the recommendations  into the federation-wide rule book to ensure the highest welfare provision. In full consultation with member bodies, the process will continue to look at the proposed revisions, their implementation and subsequent enforcement ahead of the rule book release in 2025.

Professor Campbell said; “As Chair of the EWEAG, I am delighted that British Equestrian and its member bodies are leading the world in implementing the recommendations of FEI’s EEWC at national level. Such proactive, collaborative sharing of responsibility across disciplines and uses is just what we need to safeguard the welfare of horses from elite to grassroots levels of equestrianism.’

British Equestrian Chief Executive Jim Eyre echoed the comment; “In our priviledged position to live and work with horses, we must champion the very best standards and excellence levels for their welfare – it’s non-negotiable, and the support for bringing this overarching Charter for the Horse to fruition has been outstanding. There’s been a real passion and sense of determination to make it happen and now we look forward to working with our member bodies, their members and the wider British equestrian community to upholding the charter, with equine welfare at the fore of all activity,” he added.

The Charter for the Horse is available on the British Equestrian website in two versions. Firstly, a pledge version, signed by representatives of all member bodies to share their organisation’s endorsement. Secondly, a version for all members of the equestrian community – groups and individuals – to download and sign to mark their own commitment, or display on tackroom walls, noticeboards and social media to proudly show their support to providing our equines with a lifetime of care, consideration and wellbeing.

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