Scientists Talk Preserving Equine Welfare at WEG

An aerial view of the cross-country course at Le Pin National Stud. Photo courtesy of the FEI. An aerial view of the cross-country course at Le Pin National Stud. Photo courtesy of the FEI.

With the World Equestrian Games just two weeks away — the Team USA horses ship out for France on Friday! — the 10th annual conference of the International Society for Equitation Science this past weekend focused heavily on the topic of how to preserve horse welfare at major events.

Equitation science studies the welfare of horses in training and competition, and while the world’s leading researchers on equitation science had plenty of criticism to dole out about horses competing at the highest levels of equestrian sports, they also had many positive things to say.

Christa Lesté-Lasserre attended the conference in Denmark and posted comments made about WEG from leading equitation science researchers over on The Horse. Dr. Andrew McLean of the Australian Equine Behavior Center made the following comments:

“There is a great possibility that we could be doing these high-level competitions so much better, so that they wouldn’t be such an invasion of the animals’ welfare. But I’m quite happy that things are slowly going in a better direction. Valegro (ridden by British dressage competitor Charlotte Dujardin) is a good example of that.

“Most of the elite level dressage horses we’ll see at WEG this year aren’t exhibiting anywhere near enough self-carriage—which was much more prominent 30 years ago. I really hope the world follows the lead of Carl Hester and Dujardin in bringing self-carriage back, and I’m very glad the judges are rewarding it in dressage tests.

“Even so, horses are remarkably adaptable. Habituation ability is the one thing that we’ve selectively bred for, more than anything. So horses are pretty capable of habituating to the various environments and conditions we put them in, including these high-level events.”

Click over to The Horse for many more comments on WEG and horse welfare from the world’s leading equitation science researchers. How do you think we can better preserve equine welfare at the highest levels of equestrian sport? Weigh in with a comment below.

[WEG and Welfare: Are They Compatible? Science Says Yes!]

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