Equestrianism's social license to operate: assumptions, reality and the future

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Horse sports and equestrian activities are high risk to the horses and people undertaking them. Societal views on using animals for human entertainment are changing and there is increased debate on how animal welfare is safeguarded. Traditional management systems that reduce opportunities for expression of normal behaviour and high levels of disease and injury in horses interacting with humans have increased public scrutiny on the use of horses by humans, resulting in equestrianism’s social license to operate (SLO) being questioned. A SLO is a virtual license from society to engage in an activity; without this the future of equestrianism is under threat. This review explores what constitutes a SLO and considers how stakeholders in the equestrian sector could work together to generate an effective SLO to ensure horse have a good life in all aspects of the relationship with humans.
Key words: horse; horse owner; duty of care; ethical equitation; welfare; equine quality of life
Key points:
1. There is increasing public scrutiny of horse sports and equestrian activities, and how humans safeguard equine welfare within these.
2. A social license (SLO) to operate is a virtual license given to an industry, sector or sport that permits them to engage in their activities.
3. The high-risk nature of horse sports has led to the public questioning equestrianism’s SLO.
4. To maintain a SLO, equestrians need to promote practices which give horses a good life, and which are evidence-based and transparently communicated to the public to give them trust that the equestrian industry is legitimate and credible in its approach to managing horse-human interactions.
5. Increased research to generate the evidence to underpin practice and effective communication strategies to ensure dissemination and uptake by all levels of stakeholder are needed to support the development of equestrianism’s SLO.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-202
Number of pages7
JournalUK Vet Equine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2023


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