The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

19.2.2022 Used But Not Abused

We owe our horses a debt of gratitude, for without them, we would not be where we are today. They deserve our respect and understanding, no matter what the commercial or competitive pressures may be. In 2014, Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, spoke to the FEI about equestrianism’s social license to operate. You can read a transcript of his talk here.

Recently on Facebook I came across a story about Einstein. I’m fairly sure it’s not fact, but the principle rings true:

Einstein was teaching a class, and he put some equations up on the board.










The class immediately piped up loudly that he’d got one of the equations wrong, and laughed at him. Einstein waited for everyone to be silent and then said “Despite the fact that I analysed nine problems correctly, no one congratulated me. But when I made one mistake, everyone started laughing. This means that even if a person is successful, society will notice his slightest mistake. And they’ll like that. So don’t let criticism destroy your dreams. The only person who never makes a mistake is someone who does nothing.” (Original author unknown)

It’s universally way more common to share the bad stuff than to share the good stuff. It is so easy for the ‘bad stuff’ to be blown out of all proportion through social media, and it’s important to figure out what’s important and stick to the truth. Honesty and a willingness to change are essential for the future of horse sports, where high standards of welfare are at the heart of performance. The FEI Code of Conduct states that the welfare of the horse is paramount, above all other considerations. We, as equestrians, must keep challenging the status quo. We must be willing to admit that we don’t know it all, willing to accept that sometimes we get it wrong, and willing to change our practices when the evidence shows that change is needed. Rules and regulations are no help if they aren’t communicated, understood, acted upon and enforced.

If we look hard enough, we can all come up with examples where we and others have not truly placed the welfare of the horse at the centre of our thoughts and actions. Sometimes that is because of practical difficulties, sometimes because of lack of knowledge or understanding. Either way, in the long term, we must do better. Instead of sticking with traditions because we don’t know any different, we must be receptive to new learning, to new ideas, and to new evidence. That’s not to say that we have to jump on the bandwagon of each new idea at the first opportunity. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, to the best of our ability, for the sake of our horse and for the sake of equestrianism.

An affinity with horses is universal, and they have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. In the conclusion of his address to the FEI in 2014, Roly Owers says “There is so much to celebrate when it comes to horses – in all of their roles across the globe. But hardly any government, university or human development organisation sufficiently recognises this role, whether it be enriching people’s lives or providing for their very livelihoods. This must change. We must challenge the assumption that the role of the horse is not relevant today – it absolutely is still relevant. And we must acknowledge all they do for us.”

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion