Whether you are a trainer, jockey, breeder, coach, recreational rider or elite competitor; make your opinion count when it comes to the equipment you use with horses and why you use it.
Your contribution to this study adds value and can contribute to a better future for horses and the horse sports you love!
You love horses, right? We all love horses! And, we don’t just love horses, for many of us they are our passion, our obsession, the reason we get up in the morning. Our lives, lifestyles and, for some of us, our careers are built around spending time with these wonderful creatures.
The horse industry revolves around us loving our horses and investing in providing them with the best possible care. Each year, billions of dollars circulate in the Australian economy as horse enthusiasts and horse owners spend; on feed, rugs, bedding, veterinary care, properties, facilities and pastures, equipment and the training or coaching that allow us to participate and enjoy horse sports and recreational activities.
At the same time that horse owners are investing in their horses’ care like never before, public concerns over animal welfare are increasing regardless whether the animals are intended for food production, sport, entertainment or simply companionship.
Like it or not, horse welfare is under scrutiny and, so far, the public perception that horses are being pushed beyond reasonable limits in order to gain a return on investment, is growing. It is not only threatening the future of horse sports in general, but it also impacts on our very enjoyment of that idyllic equestrian lifestyle we all dream of fulfilling.
And the public scrutiny focus has also shifted. While in the past the welfare spotlight tended to fall on emaciated or clearly injured and diseased horses, today, it has moved beyond the animal’s basic survival needs to our ability to provide them with good quality of life.
This means that no matter how well-muscled and shiny our horses are, the public will question how they spend their day and how they are being trained.
We are confronted almost weekly with scandals and protests over practices like rollkur (hyperflexion), tight nosebands, spurs and bits, and debates rage over the use of tongue-ties or whether two-year-olds should be racing.
We all want to see equestrian sports continue to thrive, so what can we do to protect our social licence to use horses for sport and recreation?
One tactic is to close ranks and go on the defensive, ‘fight’ against the ‘tree huggers’ and animal rights activists that are questioning our traditions so aggressively, and delay any demands for change.
Another is to accept every question as a starting point, a hypothesis that may require testing and, in collaboration with equine welfare scientists, investigate deeply until the answers reveal that our practices stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
Long-term, the latter is the sensible and more sustainable option plus, there is an opportunity that researchers will help develop even better ways to care for and train our horses!
Each of us can add a grain of sand by participating in every research opportunity that is presented, like the Equine Equipment Study being conducted by the University of Sydney.
As horse people we have become very accustomed to the huge variety of bridles and bits, the different shapes, actions, straps, buckles and other accessories. But, despite the marketing claims, most of the equipment we fit on our horses has not been investigated well-enough to stand up to welfare scrutiny.
In order to make informed decisions and keep the industry moving forward, The University of Sydney’s researchers have devised a quick survey that will help us all understand how widespread the use of different equipment is, and for what reasons it is being used.
Without continued investigation, welfare concerns cannot be put to rest and the lack of action will continue to slow down progress in horse sports.
Whether you are a trainer, jockey, breeder, coach, recreational rider or elite competitor, if you fit a bridle on your horses you should take part.
And while you’re there... share!