© - Content and images in this blog are copyright HorseGrooms LLC unless stated otherwise. Feel free to repost or share for non-commercial purpose, but please make sure to link back to this website and its original post.

℗ - We do not store any information about your visit to our website other than for analytics and optimization for content and reading experience through the use of cookies.

℅ - Our site does at times contain paid advertisements, sponsored content, and/or affiliate links.

Reader Etiquette


Get the FREE Guide

We're on a mission to advance the craft of grooming & keep horsemanship alive.

Master recipe maker


subscribe for free

Get Access to Exclusive HorseGrooms Content

The Results of the Survey “Horse Welfare at Home” Are In: Shocking But Not Surprising

Horse abuse scandals have continued to rock the horse world over the years. With a mission to always promote horsemanship and horse welfare, HorseGrooms wanted to give a more detailed look, over the span of several articles, into how to report abuse and how this process unfolds.

Improving horse welfare is one of the European Equestrian Federation’s priorities and the main priority of World Horse Welfare. Through a recently conducted survey, the two organizations wanted to find out what’s happening regarding horse welfare at home, away from the competition arena. The results are shocking but not surprising at the same time.

On Monday, April 15, the survey results were discussed in a panel with stakeholders Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, Jackie Potts, founding member of the International Grooms Association, Constanze Winter, general counsel at the German Equestrian Federation, and Johan Fyrberg, secretary general of the Swedish Equestrian Federation. Ulf Bromster, sustainability lead, represented the EEF. The discussion was live-streamed and is available for replay.

90% of those Surveyed Witnessed Instances of Poor Horse Welfare at Home

Over 9,000 people responded to the survey, with 94% from Europe and the largest majority identifying as national-level riders. The survey highlighted that horse welfare issues exist from the grassroots level up and are not just a concern involving international athletes or competitors. 90% of those surveyed said they had witnessed instances of poor horse welfare at home, and 58% of those instances occurred in the last six months. 

The respondents were asked to consider what they believed drove these behaviors, and there was an overwhelming feeling that a combination of the money involved in the sport, competition pressures, the standard of officials within competition and–specifically to dressage–the overall setup of the judging, all encouraged training methods that contravene good horse welfare. These findings were taken forward to set the basis of the panel discussion.

Upholding a Standard of Care that Every Horse Deserves

Opening the session, EEF President Theo Ploegmakers had a clear message: “The welfare of the horses must always be paramount. It is not about being demanding; it is upholding a standard of care that every horse deserves…We need to consider what is in our control, and the control of our National Federations, and empower these Federations to enforce regulations, build on the education and protect the horse, who is the center of our sport.”

Grooms In A Very Vulnerable Position

The discussion began with talk about reporting and the lack of consensus from those surveyed for who should handle reports and the logistical challenges managing reports has. These findings were echoed by top groom Potts who raised that even with a system, grooms were in a very vulnerable position to raise reports against their employer. 

Major Challenges Before Prosecution of Abusers is Possible

Owers provided background on World Horse Welfare’s reporting center, which requires considerable resources to operate. Winter was able to give key insights into the amount of detail and evidence needed to fully prosecute a case which creates major challenges in the reporting system setup. In addition, it was highlighted that in Germany, informal methods of reporting were set up with dedicated people within each area identified to be a person to confide in and help to mediate situations that may not require full escalation and sanctions.

Research and Studies Needed

Closely linked to this discussion was also the need for research and studies to help provide better insights into the horse and, in turn, better protection for their welfare rights. This is an area that is constantly evolving, and could benefit from more cooperation and collaboration across the industry. Sweden demonstrated strong collaboration efforts especially with their Nordic neighbors to initiate discussions and actions such as the request for a dressage forum to take several key discipline topics further into action.

A Cultural Shift is Required 

The conversation then turned to the wider drivers behind poor training behaviors, which survey respondents suggested were linked to money, competition pressure and, in particular, dressage judging and judging systems. The panel could understand these findings and expanded on the wider belief that a cultural shift is required to reset the mindsets that are opting for inappropriate methods, create clear education systems to inform on the impact of the horse and motivate individuals to take responsibility alongside the larger federations and stakeholders.

“The Standard You Walk Past is the Standard You Accept”

This led to a final area of discussion on how to really develop action now. Owers provided excellent insight into the need for a culture shift, and the need to empower a shared responsibility amongst the equestrian community, and this is an area that national federations can help to cultivate through their member network. A statement shared by Owers at the beginning of the discussion rang true for our panelists: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept” – and the need for systemic change that truly cultivates a cultural change at every level, in which every individual feels educated and empowered to act for their horses, is what is required.

“Our standards of horse welfare are developing, and things that were acceptable in the past no longer are.”

Our Standards of Horse Welfare are Developing

This puts continuous education and development at the forefront. As the discussion showed, our standards of horse welfare are developing and things that were acceptable in the past no longer are. But these changes need sharing and educating especially for those taking a role as trainers, coaches, riding instructors and individuals involved in educating others.

The discussions from this webinar will be continued in two weeks at the FEI Sports Forum in which the entire range of equine ethics and well-being recommendations will be reviewed.

The full webinar can be replayed on this link:

For more information on some of topics discussed please see these links:

Germany; information for reporting instances:



Germany; Traffic light system for warm up arenas:


Sweden: information for reporting instances:


Sweden: Information on the bit education system  

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYnL77gI0LU



For more articles on horse welfare, NDAs for grooms, how and where to report, join the HorseGrooms Community or read the articles on this website.

April 16, 2024


read & Leave a comment






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

learn more

The Community for Horse grooms

join now

Featuring event schedules, connection with peers, access to industry leaders, and exclusive courses. Signing up is totally free and gets you instant access to everything the Community has to offer.

get involved