A Competition Question: Horse Welfare, Pentathletes, and Competitive Riding



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Zoophilologica: Polish Journal of Animal Studies


Human-Animal Bond, equine welfare, equestrian, Olympics, Modern Pentathlon


Equestrian sports vary in degree of human- animal bond and affiliation, from catch-ride to perceptions of ownership. The Modern Pentathlon has not garnered mainstream media coverage until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the rise in conversation and coverage was in response and reaction to poor horsemanship, negative behavior, and aggressive coaching. The events of the 2020 Modern Pentathlon were profound in that they highlighted the extreme juxtaposition of competitions that focus on bonded relationships and catch-riding experiences. The implications are far reaching with increased critique of equestrian sports, transparency about the lack of riding training athletes engaged in prior to competition, and the omission of partnership between horse and rider. The Modern Pentathlon is discussed in the context of the human-equine bond. The standards for equine welfare and wellbeing is considered in regard to the role of the rider in supporting their equine partner in the face of competition, including the implications of emotional distress in reaction to disappointment, and tragedy. Additionally, the role of riders when they are not engaged in the competitive sport (e.g., training and general care of their equine partners). Recommendations for the process and guidelines of the sport are de-lineated, as well as professional opportunities to strengthen the sport.

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