The animal rights group, People for Ethical Treatment towards Animals (PETA), is looking to continue its campaign to have all equine events removed from the Olympics in the future. Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo, who wrote to the IOC in August for the end of pentathlon riding, believes equestrian events must also go away. Horse riding is already set to be replaced by cycling in the modern Pentathlon after Paris 2024.
“We will urge our 9 million supporters and many others who agree with us to tell the IOC what is obvious to everyone: the Olympic Games should be modernized to include only voluntary participants,” said Guillermo told ESPN, “Competitions involving animals must end and that means horses, which don’t care about medals at all, should be left out.”
Equestrian rider Fouaad Mirza, who represented India at this year’s Olympics, finds this justification unjustified. He suggests that there will always be arguments for and against sport depending on how one sees the involvement of animals in competition. âOurs is perhaps the only sport in the world where men and women compete on equal terms and which involves a human and animal partnership. In terms of Olympic values, it ticks all the boxes of sport, courage, compassion and teamwork. only to walk around the stables to see how well the competitors take care of their horses and how dedicated we are to them. Horses are an extension of our families. “
Unlike pentathlon riding, where horses and riders are randomly paired 20 minutes before entering the course, riding is built around a partnership between rider and mount, choreographed to move harmoniously towards invisible aids. . Kathy argues that familiarity between humans and animals does not necessarily qualify the sport. âGoing into a pentathlon is of course particularly cruel, associating a human and a horse who have never met. But in all equestrian events, the horses have no power, âshe adds. equestrian. But make no mistake, horses learn early on that they have to submit – no matter how they feel. It is a relationship of dominance. Horses may be less tense when they know the rider, but they are no less exploited or in danger. “
As a sport, horsemanship is considered to be incredibly expensive and extremely white, and descriptors such as “breaking a horse” – preparing it for riding, haltering and following basic commands don’t help either. . âI hate that term and wish we didn’t call it that,â says Olympian Imtiaz Aneez, who runs a stable and boarding school in coastal Gujarat, âBut the argument that horses are being forced in any way, whether it be dressage or show jumping, I would say that when horses compete at the elite level, it takes willpower. It can’t be coercion. Horses are often tested, therefore you cannot use needles or painkillers. In our establishment, we give them alternative therapy, rest, bandage, multani mitti (Fuller’s earth) and the most potent drugs we use are doses of homeopathic Arnica or Calendula. I want those who criticize our sport to take a look at how much care and money we spend on the recovery of our horses, whether it’s removing lactic acid from their bodies or loading them with ‘electrolytes. At the cost of appearing pompous, our horses are well groomed than many human athletes. “
Horseback riding at the Olympics includes three disciplines – show jumping, eventing and dressage. Ahead of the London 2012 Games, an alleged video of Swedish rider Patrick Kittel using rollkur – pulling his neck in a deep curve so that the nose almost touches his chest – on his dressage horse was all the rage. Kittel would later deny such an occurrence. Dressage, essentially equestrian ballet, makes animals step sideways, pirouettes and extended trots to music. Aneez offers to help horses “stay flexible and healthy”. Many outside of sport consider it an unnecessary and somewhat ironic routine to subject a free-spirited animal to repeated choreography.
In recent years, the IOC has worked to solve the problem of the youth of the Olympics – by making itself more attractive to Millennials and Gen Z audiences. 3×3 basketball and BMX Freestyle have made their appearance. Paris 2024 will welcome breakdance to its list and esports will be a demonstration event for the first time. This year, the IOC has asked the world equestrian body, the FEI, to reduce its number of participants and reduce the team jumping to a team of three, instead of four. âLike all sports in the Olympic movement, we received a clear message from the IOC President – ‘change or be changed’ – calling on Olympic sports to make their events at the Olympic Games more universal, more exciting, easier to understand and more attractive, especially for new young audiences, “FEI said.
Kathy insists that the central issue is the practice of the sport itself, not specifically the Olympics, but events at other levels as well. What put these events on their radar, she explains, was an incident involving an obstacle rider earlier this year. She received a video revealing abusive lashes in a California ring by a horseman named Kevin Lemke. âWe have filed complaints with both the FEI and the US Equestrian Federation (USEF). In response, USEF suspended Lemke for four months and fined him $ 4,000. As Lemke was no longer registered with the FEI, this body was unable to take any action. we knew these events could be dangerous, this year we have decided that we cannot ignore what can only be called abuse. “
Aneez refutes the argument for possible harsh training methods and unnatural routines and cites that almost all riders at the sport’s elite levels are animal lovers. Developments in sports and medical science, he points out, mean that injured horses are no longer slaughtered, but may even regain full fitness and competition. âWhen we don’t agree with something, getting rid of it might seem like an easy choice. But it’s hardly ever a solution. The difficult but lasting option is to educate the members of the sport. have been around horses since I was four years old, I grew up bathing, grooming, feeding and brushing them and today I teach those who train in my establishment to do the same . This can go very far. “
Kathy is preparing for a long campaign. âHow far we go depends on what happens. But we are watching. We also receive complaints from people inside the equestrian world who are deeply troubled by what they see. People involved in equestrian events may want to rethink their future plans. “