EP35: Judgement Day in Equestrian Sports

This podcast episode aired on April Fools’ Day, but I assure you; This is not a joke.

Equestrian sports are currently under scrutiny. While it’s easy to point out the problems the sport faces, it’s more important to search for solutions. This is the ambition behind today’s episode: to suggest possible solutions to some of the welfare challenges we are facing, with a particular focus on international grand prix level dressage.

Why start with grand prix dressage, when horses are subjected to more pain and violence in several other disiplins too? Because I believe it’s at this level where we set the standard for equestrian sports as a whole.

PLEASE NOTE: Today’s episode is a translated transcript from a much-debated Norwegian podcast episode that aired on HESTENES KLAN, Norway’s largest podcast about horses, in December last year.

But before I introduce former 3-star FEI judge Hege Trulsen and delve into our examination of the current state of affairs, I want to address a more personal concern: the development of a culture of silence jeopardizing horse welfare. It’s a culture that I’ve encountered many times during the four years I’ve run this podcast. People are often afraid to speak their minds when they should be advocating for the horse because the costs for whistleblowers are often too high compared to the impact on horse welfare. And this simply cannot be tolerated.

I won’t go into all the ugly details that have come to my attention since we launched the original Norwegian version of this episode and initiated the international petition #LetHorsesSpeak. But I will mention another very questionable case in Denmark that has come to light in the wake TV2’s documentary Operation X, “The Secrets of the Horse Billionaire.” A story about a pony with a so-called tongue issue, which is what we like to call it when a horse, for various reasons, often good ones, cannot keep its tongue inside its mouth. The pony in question, a great talent in the dressage arena, had a significant portion of its tongue amputated in what looks very much like an attempt to “solve the problem.” If that’s true, then I think we should consider this tale as yet another reminder that parts of the equestrian community have lost their ethical compass.

So the timing definitely feels right when I sit down with Hege Trulsen for the second time for an important conversation about an important topic. Please bear in mind that English is our second language, so some nuances will inevitably be lost in translation. But I sincerely hope that one of the main takeaways from this interview is the realisation that if Hege and I were horses, we would both potentially be at risk of losing our tongues for speaking out in this episode…

The episodes from Clan of the Horses / Hestenes klan can be heard wherever you listen to podcasts or here:

Original Norwegian episode:

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