Finland speaks out about violence and coercion in equine training

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Helsinki Humane Society HESY Ry Asks Horse Industry to Abandon Violent Training Methods

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“The Helsinki Society for Animal Protection (HESY ry) along with certain horse industry professionals are concerned about the violence and coercion used in equestrian competitions and in the every day training and handling of horses. Extreme examples of this conduct in equestrian sports include forcing the horse using auxiliary reins, hitting with a whip and kicking with spurs as well as prolonged stress caused by ignoring the horses’ species-specific needs (see Appendix 1).

The rules of the Equestrian Federation of Finland (SRL) state that a horse should not be forced into obedience and that a horse should not be deliberately subjected to pain. In the discipline-specific rules, however, these injunctions are taken back. In show jumping, for example, the rules state that a horse should never be hit more than three times in a row and that excessive use of the whip is considered to have occurred when a horse’s skin has been broken.

Rules like this are in blatant violation of Finland’s Animal Welfare Act (12§), which prohibits the violent handling of any animal as well as kicking and hitting with any damaging instrument.

“If the limit of excessive hitting is not reached until the horse is bleeding, it has been taken too far. This type of misconduct and the permissive atmosphere allowing such violence should be weeded out from equestrian sports. We need to bring the true spirit of the rules to the forefront and forbid riders from causing pain to horses. A horse should not be treated like a piece of sport equipment. It is a sentient, feeling being,” states Hannele Luukkainen, the chairman of HESY.”

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