“These horses have a better life than most humans!  They have private grooms, the best tacks, the best bedding and the best feed. Stop attacking good owners!” This is the general response I get when raising any concerns regarding the equestrian ‘sport’ industry. Because in most people minds, as long as the horse is fed and have a shiny coat there is no welfare issue. But welfare goes further than that; both the physical and mental state of the animals must be considered. The Five Freedoms first set out by the Brambell Commission in the 60s form a framework for welfare analysis.

Theses Five Freedoms are: (in no specific order)

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  • Freedom from environmental stress (excessive heat or cold)
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • Freedom to act out normal behaviours (which are specie-specific)
  • Freedom from fear and distress

The first two freedoms are what most people consider to be welfare. And in developed countries, theses are relatively well taken care off, even if many times inappropriately. (eg. too much hard feed and too little roughage, excessive rugging etc.) Most people will also consider the third freedom as important but some may be biased on what they consider ‘acceptable’ pain or injury. For example: 

  • Underweight donkey pulling a cart in Egypt being whipped by uneducated owner who depend on the animal for survival = welfare issue. “This is horrible!”
  • Horse with a shiny coat at a jumping event, refusing to jump an oxer and being whipped by the rider for entertainment reason = not a welfare issue. “It’s ok the horse is just being corrected”
  • Underweight donkey in Egypt breaks a leg due to be overworked by owner = welfare issue. “These people are horrible, they don’t deserve to own animals!”
  • Horse with shinny coat breaks a leg at a cross-country event = not a welfare issue. “It’s a tragedy but the horse has die doing what he loved.”

I think you get the idea.

Not only keeping horses stabled most of the day goes against the horse's freedom to act out normal behaviours but the horse can also develop stereotypies.

Beating or threatening your horse with a whip is not only unnecessary but it also cause him undeniable fear, distress and pain.

But the freedom that I really want to talk about is the last one. Because now this mean, in theory, that if when training your horse you encounter resistance from him, you cannot just threaten him, causing him fear, or hurt him, causing him distress. Doing so will be violating one of the five rights of your horse. You actually have to listen and learn how to do things differently. Unfortunately we all know that there is a big difference between theory and actual application, and that you are unlikely to actually get in trouble for violating this freedom. So it is up to you to stick to a good code of conduct, without the need for legal repercussion. It is up to you to try your best to respect your horse’s five freedoms and educate other around you about welfare.


  • "Why I no longer allow riders to carry a whip during my lesson" by Fairhorsemanship. Looking at the cons of using or carrying a whip from the horse point of view. READ HERE
  • "Glass houses" by A reply to the question, "why not focusing on the real abuse?" READ HERE