New FEI Tack Team Aims To Boost Horse Welfare and Fairness

POSTED ON  |  20-06-2022

Mikael Rentsch FEI Legal Director
As scientists learn more about the effects of tack and equipment and as new products emerge on the market, the international governing body for horse sports has moved to change the way it manages equipment compliance and knowledge sharing.The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) has announced its creation of a dedicated Tack and Equipment Group to review new and old kinds of tack and gather the latest scientific information about saddles, bridles, training aids, and other equestrian equipment. Comprising representatives of each FEI discipline, the veterinary team, the legal team, and outside experts, the group aims to improve welfare and fairness while enhancing the image of the sport, said Mikael Rentsch, FEI Legal Director.

“There are many, many challenges out there with tack and equipment,” Rentsch told FEI delegates during the 2022 FEI Sports Forum, held April 25 to 27 in Lausanne, Switzerland. “There is no consistency in equipment requirements among the various disciplines. There’s a lack of transparency when we do the assessments. … There’s a lack of scientific rationale behind the requirements. And the rules are quite rigid and nonresponsive to the very evolving world (of equestrian equipment), with manufacturers being very creative and developing new items on a (regular) basis.”

Such issues could lead to oversights regarding horse welfare or give riders an unintended and unfair competitive edge, he said. And tack-related problems in competition could threaten the public image of the sport and its social license to operate.

Updating Tack Rules Based on Scientific Rationale

The FEI currently has equipment rules in place for each discipline, Rentsch said. These rules define the kinds of saddles, bridles, bits, spurs, whips, and other tack and aids riders can use in each discipline and competitive level during FEI events. They often include specific measurements or mechanical designs of equipment—but provide no evidence-based support for such rules.

“Most of the time, we have a (tack) rule, and we don’t even know why it’s there,” he said. “And it’s been there maybe 30 years. Maybe it was relevant 30 years ago, but is it still relevant and tolerated to be used in the equestrian world today? We need to recognize and build the core principle based on a scientific and ethical approach, with horse welfare being paramount.”

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