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Should We Use Horses For Sport?

Is it ethical to use horses for sporting events? What about using horses as beasts of burden, or teaching them to be ridden and taking them on trail rides? Should we use horses in this way at all, or just leave them standing in the field as ornaments? Who’s to say? What is right? What is abuse? Where do we draw the line? Should we be the ones to draw it? Read on and find out what the World Horse Welfare based in England thinks about this debate.

Do horses like to compete? Are they happy being ridden and guided around? Nobody will ever know for certain, but it is clear that some horses will not let others outstrip them while running in the pasture and display dominance while frolicking together and vying for the best pile of hay. Thoroughbreds are have been bred to race for thousands of years, and some jockeys will say a horse knows when he/she wins and tries to win on their own with little urging from them.  I am grateful to Roly Owers for this article.

Is it ethical to use horses in sport for our entertainment?

by Roly Owers   Thoroughbred Racing Commentary   March 24, 2014

There is no doubt that public support for horse racing, and horse sport in general, is increasingly contingent upon their confidence in a sport’s care and protection of the horse. This is a welcome development, for horses, humans, and for sport. However, animal rights groups and others are attracting more attention for their view that it is inherently wrong to use horses for entertainment. So, is it ethical to use horses in sport?  World Horse Welfare strongly believes that it is — so long as the horses’ welfare takes precedence over all other considerations.

As independent welfare advisors to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) – in addition to our core work of improving horses’ lives through education, campaigning, and hands-on care in the UK, Europe, and around the world – World Horse Welfare has helped to improve welfare in sport for decades, thanks to the foresight of sport regulators who understood the value of external perspective – and challenge.

World Horse Welfare does not accept the claim that horses are unwilling participants in sport. Horses bred to compete will rise to the challenge, as anyone who has ever taken part in equestrian sport knows. This notion that sport is bad for horses needs to be challenged – and challenged forcefully.  Yes, sport horses are well cared for, but that is no more than one should expect. However, the sheer amount of investment that flows into the horse industry and the resulting research that is conducted on horse health and welfare has done an enormous amount for horses everywhere.

Who is watching whether or not horses are being treated well? Is there a worldwide horse police force overlooking how horses and other animals are treated and cared for? Who comes up with the standards of how a horse should be cared for? Who gets to say?

Do we need to monitor pampered horses?

At the other side of the spectrum, some wonder why elite sport horses need involvement from welfare organisations at all. But, there are two reasons why.

First, horse welfare in sport is so high in part because organisations such as World Horse Welfare have made it our business to work with regulators to help them reach these standards. We are proud that sport horses now enjoy welfare standards among the highest in the world. Second, because more needs to be done. Our concerns include the excessive weight of show horses, aggressive training practices, appropriate risk management, current levels of doping, and the management practices of some sport horses.

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