Horse Welfare, Key Point of Discussion at 2022 IDRC / IDTC General Assembly

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 16:23
IDRC / IDTC General Assembly
Ullrich Kasselmann, Linda Keenan, David Hunt, Isabel Werth, and Klaus Roeser at the 2022 IDRC / IDTC General Assembly :: Photo © Hof Kasselmann

Hof Kasselmann played host to the joint meeting of the International Dressage Trainers Club/International Dressage Riders Club on 17 - 18 October 2022.

Horse Welfare

Horse welfare was a key topic of the meeting. Klaus Roeser, Secretary General IDRC, opened the topic and highlighted that all needs of the horse--mental, physical and social, must be included when welfare is addressed. He also pointed out the need for social acceptance and the complexities of perceptions in today’s world emphasizing the great influence that social media seems to be having on the future of dressage. This needs to be addressed to achieve greater influence over the perception of the sport.

Octavian Morariu, President Rugby Europe and an IOC member, provided insight into the IOC. He emphasized that the challenges faced equestrianism are the same across all international sports. Good communication and transparency in addition to cohesion were the essential elements to face these challenges.  The need for a united equestrian community was reiterated by Dr. Carolien Munster’s, Project coordinator Sporthorse Welfare Foundation, who described the efforts of the Sporthorse Welfare Foundation to identify a consensus regarding key elements of horse welfare.

Live Demonstrations

Tristan Tucker at the IDTC/IDRC General Assembly
Tristan Tucker, founder of TRT Method online training platform, gave a live demonstration about how to teach a horse to ‘self-manage’ using confidence and relaxation as key elements.

Klaus Balkenhol, Olympic medalist and former German and United States dressage team trainer, gave a live demonstration which focused on sustainability. His guiding principle is to challenge but never overtax a horse.  The maintenance of pure movements and suppleness were given top priority.

Acceptable Warm-up Techniques

Jacques Van Daele, FEI Chief Steward, Isabell Werth, President IDRC, David Hunt ,IDTC President, and Roly Owers, Chief Executive World Horse Welfare, participated in a live session to clarify what are acceptable warm-up techniques at competitions. There was agreement that intention and circumstances needed to be included when assessing horse posture.

Goncalo Paixao, FEI Veterinary Department, outlined the current procedure regarding the approval of equipment.

Following on the topic of horse health management, Dr. Marc Koene, team veterinarian German dressage team, presented the various therapeutic modalities available, their efficacy and regulations regarding who is allowed to use them at competitions.

Breeding for Dressage

Breeding for the future
Ulli Kasselmann, renowned breeder, organizer, trainer and founder of PSI auction, provided a fascinating retrospective of his 50 years in horse breeding. Together with Johannes Westendarp, successful breeder, they presented mares with their foals and several exciting young horses to demonstrate the quality of what is being bred today. They also discussed trends in breeding and emphasized the importance of the mare not only for her genetic contribution but also her influence on temperament and behaviour resulting from the foal’s early months spent together.

The Role of Judges for Horse Welfare

Katrina Wuest, FEI 5* Judge and JAG member, outlined the educational path required to become an international judge. The direct effect of a judge on horse welfare was highlighted. Dressage is the only equestrian sport where horse welfare is integral to the scoring. Evidence of stress or discomfort is directly reflected in the score.

David Hunt, President IDTC/ JAG and JSP member, discussed the role of the Judge Supervisory Panel and the Judge Advisory Group. He explained how judge performance is monitored and what steps are taken if a judge is found to be under-performing.

Daniel Gohlen’s, founder and CEO Black Horse One, two presentations ignited lots of good-natured fireworks! He demonstrated how technology, e.g. cameras, artificial intelligence etc. could be used in judging. It became clear that ‘virtual’ judges would find it difficult to satisfactorily replace ‘human’ judges. The group did however see a role for these technologies in a training context.

Daniel also provided an opportunity for the trainers and riders to test their judging ability using his Spectator Judging app. Using selected exercises performed live as examples, the audience was able to give their marks in real time. The results were greatly varied. A discussion by panel members, Katrina Wuest, David Hunt, Catherine Haddad, international rider and Board member IDRC, and Isabell Werth followed. Suffice it to say the group demonstrated the need for more practice in this regard! The discussion that arose from this experiment was, however, very fruitful and there was a strong desire to find another opportunity to do this.

Key Developments in the FEI

Klaus Roeser speaking on horse welfare
Bettina DeRahm, FEI Director of Dressage, provided an overview of key developments in the FEI. She outlined the recommendations of the Equine Ethics and Well-Being Commission and confirmed that these recommendations would go through the normal process of consultation with Stakeholders and National Federations and would need to be approved via the Rule Revision process no earlier than 2023.


After a 2-year hiatus caused by Covid, the group was keen to resume the annual IDTC members meetings. The synergy produced by joining both clubs was impressive.

The atmosphere was upbeat and collaborative with the major takeaways being that we need to be:
1. more proactive in conveying the case for equestrian sport
2. convincing that we do recognize and care about the need for horse welfare
3. more inclusive and collaborate with the other Olympic disciplines to present a united front for equestrianism

The meeting concluded with the announcement by Betsy Juliano, founder Litigation Management Inc. and international dressage horse owner, of the establishment of a Dressage Horse Owners Club. The IHOC stand next to the other stakeholder clubs and will focus on the interest of horse owners importantly on horse welfare.

-- reported provided by the IDRC/IDTC to Eurodressage (press was not allowed at this event)

Related Links
Horse Welfare and What it Means to YOU — 2022 IDTC/IDRC Members Meeting at Hof Kasselmann
Joint Letter from IDRC/IDTC Sparks Controversy and Debate on Social Licence
2018 IDTC Annual Meeting at Gestut Vorwerk, the New Global Dressage Forum?!
IDRC and IDTC Met to Discuss Stewarding Guidelines and Team Formula at Aachen