Welfare Over Winning: Protecting Show Horse Welfare

Decisions the FEI makes don’t just affect the welfare of high-level horses; our sources say their impacts can trickle down to competitions at all levels, even unsanctioned local shows and noncompetitive leisure riding. Here’s what you need to know.
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protecting show horse welfare
Dressage judges make the call on whether to eliminate a horse and rider due to bleeding, lameness, or abusive riding. | Photo: iStock

At the pinnacle of equine sport, what are FEI officials doing to put the horse first?

Under the bright lights of Paris’ Bercy stadium in April, a hushed audience watched a sprightly dark bay gelding canter into the arena for the 2018 FEI Longines World Cup Jumping Final. The horse, Admara 2, approached the first jump under Colombian rider Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo with clear energy and style.

The 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood leapt over the inviting fence with ease. But he landed in strange form. He kept his hind limbs abnormally high and outstretched. It was as though he was trying to make absolutely sure those legs didn’t touch a fence.

And it was no fluke. A second jump, then a third, then a fourth … all in the same form. Sometimes he even kicked out after clearing the fence. Admara 2’s conspicuous “overjumping” style drew gasps from the spectators and caused chatter, specifically over whether the horse would be “barred

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Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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