Nine months after several incidents and accidents marred the equestrian disciplines of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, a study group from the French National Assembly (the lower house of the French Parliament), makes 46 recommendations for making Paris 2024 the Olympic Games of Equine Welfare. 

Here is the Summary of the report in English.

Addressing the Paris 2024 Organising Committee directly, and bypassing the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the report highlights the shortcomings of the current regulations. The list of issues raised is comprehensive, but the authors insist take up of their recommendations could make Paris 2024 the Olympic Games of horse welfare. 

You are reading the Summary of the Report. To read the Full Report, click here. 

Cover of the recommendations for equine welfare at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games

Covering all aspects of the organisation, and every discipline, including Pentathlon, the recommendation is to strengthen or change existing rules, return to the old teams format, invest in new technologies and standardise checks. 

There is a long section on equipment, which includes banning combination bits, draw reins and the use of elevator bits in conjunction with martingales. They want standardised checks of noseband tightness using the ISES taper gauge at the nasal plane, and they call for a ban of hyperflexion anywhere on the Games grounds, acknowledging it refers to any head and neck posture where the nose is behind the vertical.  

They also ask for an independent Welfare Committee that is made up of purposely trained veterinarians and stewards, with access to 24/7 surveillance video recordings everywhere on the grounds. And they call for better veterinary and medication controls including a mandate for EHV vaccination. 

These are just recommendations, not mandates, but coming directly from the French government, they bring to life the warning that is often repeated by those concerned about horse sports’ social licence to operate – when meaningful reform does not happen from within the horse industry, governments will step in. 

The report begins listing the 46 recommendations, and then, in Part 2, it adds the background and the context in which they were written. We have split the English translation of the report in two parts.

Here is the first part, a summary of the recommendations. 

Study Group presided by Loic Dombreval, Deputy of the Maritime-Alps.

Equine Welfare Recommendations for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, April 2022

Translation by Horses and People


Incidents and accidents marred the equestrian disciplines of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, provoked public and media outrage, and prompted some animal rights organizations to call for a ban of equestrian events at the Olympic Games.

To avoid such drastic measures, it is essential to implement new measures that favour the welfare of horses for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It is essential that this global event becomes an opportunity to raise equine welfare awareness among the general public and professionals, and it must be nothing other than a source of pleasure for the horses, riders and spectators.

Following the discussions that took place during many interviews, we are formulating 46 recommendations for the organisers of the equestrian events of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, recommendations that are equally applicable to all equestrian competitions beyond the Olympic Games.

These recommendations were reviewed by the people and organizations interviewed.

They have no regulatory mandate but constitute an inventory of the opinions of experts and equestrian professionals.

It is up to the Organizing Committee of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and it alone, in conjunction with the various organizations interviewed, to decide on the future of these recommendations.

You are reading the Summary of the Report. To read the Full Report, click here. 

Concerning the facilities:

Recommendation #1:

Provide relaxation areas (grazing areas, lungeing and exercise areas, galloping track, paddocks, etc.) in sufficient quantity and surface area to be accessible to horses as needed, while respecting a controlled environment that guarantees the safety and biosecurity that are essential in competition.

Recommendation #2:

Ensure that horses are housed in boxes that are large enough (4 m sides minimum), high enough, well ventilated, even air-conditioned (according to FEI rules), with a comfortable, non-slip and easy-to-clean flooring that can accommodate the bedding that is familiar to each horse.

Concerning feeding:

Recommendation #3

Ensure a sufficient supply of hay (roughage) to allow feeding several times a day, even ad libitum, and according to the needs of each horse.

Recommendation #4

Strengthen the surveillance of control teams already provided for by the FEI, in particular, with regard to the alert criteria in terms of health, wellbeing or dangerous riding practices.

Set up a “Welfare Committee”, made up of independent experts authorised to move freely throughout the Olympic site of the equestrian events, as part of a special “Equine Welfare at the Olympic Games” mission.

Recommendation #5

Remind participants and inform the public that the entire equestrian competition precinct is under 24/7 surveillance by purposely trained veterinarians and stewards, and that recordings of the video surveillance is undertaken by an independent company, to any consultations on request, in particular that of the “Welfare Committee”

Recommendation #6

Apply the existing rule which states that when leaving the arena or competition area at the end of the events: no one can access the horse before it is checked by the FEI steward in charge.

Concerning tack and artificial aids:

Recommendation #7

Improve the controls against the excessive tightening of nosebands and curb chains:

Provide a more calibrated check, preformed randomly during training sessions and systematically when entering or leaving each event, using a 1.5 cm ISES taper gauge placed on the nasal bones (which allow one adult finger to slide between the noseband strap and the hard nasal bone) and apply a penalty in the event of an infringement.

Recommendation #8

Review the list of tack which, by its creative design or manufacture, can cause harm and discomfort to the horse, and prohibit its use in competition, in particular nosebands that increase the capacity to tighten (crank, lever, grackle, double, etc.) as well as flash nosebands in all disciplines: Create a positive list of authorized nosebands.

Recommendation #9

Prohibit the use of elevator/gag bits on cross country, particularly when combined with a grackle or flash noseband.

Recommendation #10

Prohibit the use of tandem/combination bits, bits with twisted or double mouthpieces, and all bits that do not align with equine welfare, and create a list of authorized mouthpieces.

Recommendation #11

Prohibit the use of martingales together with an elevator (gag) bit throughout the entire Olympic Games grounds.

Recommendation #12

Prohibit the use of running reins (draw reins) throughout the entire Olympic Games precinct.

Recommendation #13

Prohibit the fitting of tendon boots on the hindlegs by extending the FEI rules already in place for young horses, to all horses in all disciplines.

Increase control of the tightness of fetlock boots and review their authorization to reduce their use.

Recommendation #14

Organise a tabletop check of the tack and protective equipment of each horse with video recording, and before the events.

Recommendation #15

Prohibit the use of the whip more than once per event and more than twice during the warm-up. The use of a whip more than once per event and twice during warm-up will result in a sanction or even disqualification. Video surveillance used as evidence if necessary.

Recommendation #16

Authorise riding without spurs in dressage, as is the case in all events.

Recommendation #17

Prohibit belly bands (bands that protect the horse from the spurs).

Recommendation #18

Systematically check the conformity of the rider’s artificial aids (spurs, whip), as well as the horse’s tack and protective equipment, as provided for in the regulations.

(You are reading the Summary of the Report. To read the Full Report, click here.)

Concerning veterinary care and control

Recommendation #19

Remind everyone that the fight against doping is the priority of all international competitions and that the rules prohibit the use of horses who have undergone any type of neurectomy, at any level, whether chemical or surgical.

Recommendation #20

Increase the random use of hyposensitivity, hypersensitivity and thermography tests to check at least 10% of the horses after each event. Work to optimise and validate these tests as perfectly reliable, standardised (specificity and sensitivity) and reproducible before the 2024 Olympic Games.

Impose a clinical veterinary examination and a doping control test on any horse that tests positive for one of these three tests, and regulate for the disqualification of both horse and rider.

Recommendation #21

Conduct longitudinal monitoring of horses in preparation for the Olympic Games and provide for anti-doping samples between 1 month and 15 days before the veterinary visit prior to the events.

Recommendation #22

Prohibit all intra-articular injections, whatever the nature of the product injected, 14 days before the official start of the competition and until the end of the event, with no possibility of exceptions on this rule.

Recommendation #23

Impose the maintenance of the FEI Medication Logbook (register of the care and treatment administered to the horse throughout their career) and present it at the pre-event veterinary control.

Recommendation #24

Ensure that all medication brought in by the attending and/or team veterinarians are properly controlled on arrival and on departure, and are traced by keeping a controlled register, administered exclusively in the clinic and only when necessary by authorised attending veterinarians under the responsibility of the FEI Veterinary Commission.

Recommendation #25

Expand the call for tenders and increase the number of analysis laboratories for the Olympic Games, in addition to the five establishments already selected by the FEI and, if necessary, provide for a comparative test phase.

Recommendation #26

Mandate vaccination against rhinopneoumonitis (Equine Herpes virus) in accordance with the protocol validated by the responsible veterinary authorities, this is in addition to the existing regulatory mandate for equine influenza vaccination as a condition of entry into the Olympic Games precinct.

Recommendation #27

Remove from competition any horses with a medical history that is not compatible with an optimal state of health (e.g. a history of bone, ligament or muscle injury resulting in long periods of inactivity), which is necessary for participation in the Olympic Games.
This optimal state of health will have to be verified in advance by the FEI Veterinarians.

Recommendation #28

Systematise the video recording of veterinary controls (pre-competition checks and sensitivity tests) to enable viewing the slow motion control on request in case of suspected lameness, in the event of a dispute or subsequent accident, and for educational purposes.

Recommendation #29

Impose the immediate stopping of a ride at the slightest trace of blood on the horse and eliminate the horse from the rest of the competition.

Recommendation #30

Allow horses and their teams to arrive at the pre-competition stables in the Olympic Games precinct at least 15 days before the competition, giving them time to rest after transport and acclimatise to the conditions before the competition begins.

You are reading the Summary of the Report. To read the Full Report, click here. 

Concerning dressage

Recommendation #31

Enforce the prohibition of intentional or unintentional infliction of unnecessary suffering or discomfort, and of an overly constrained posture or frame.

Prohibit flexion of the neck that places the nose line behind the vertical (“hyperflexion”) throughout the Olympic grounds and apply sanctions with immediate effect for all equestrian disciplines.

Concerning Show Jumping (CSO)

Recommendation #32

Return to the pre-Tokyo Olympic Games show jumping format of 4 rider-horse pairs per team, with a drop-score.

Recommendation #33

Accept the French Equestrian Federation’s (FFE) request to reschedule the individual event after the team events.

Recommendation #34

Organise events involving show jumping in daylight, while avoiding the hottest periods of the day.

Consider changes to the schedule depending on the weather.

Concerning cross-country

Recommendation #35

Improve the protection of horses by fully checking their clinical condition before deciding whether or not to allow them entry to the Olympic Games.

Recommendation #36

Continue to support equipment manufacturers who work on horse protection as well as those who work on rider protection. Collaborate on the development of better leg protection for horses for 2024.

Recommendation #37

Equip the cross-country course with 100% of obstacles designed to collapse in the event of a fall or impact.

Recommendation #38

Check that the design of the obstacles complies with the regulations and that the profile, the angle of attack, the top or any other area does not have any right angles or protruding parts.

Recommendation #39

Assess the quality of the cross-country course surface using validated measuring tools and test new, patented equipment for the evaluation of cross-country course surfaces in the various equestrian disciplines prior to the events.

Concerning the Pentathlon

Recommendation #40

Implement all FEI safety and welfare rules for the Pentathlon Equestrian event and take into consideration the feedback from the working group involving the FEI and the FEI Veterinary Commission.

Recommendation #41

Assign a different horse to each rider to avoid multiple rounds.

Recommendation #42

Draw lots for the horse 24 hours before the event, so that every rider-horse pair can get to know each other.

Recommendation #43

Lower the height of the obstacles to 110 cm maximum.

To make the Paris 2024 Olympic Games the Olympic Games of equine welfare

Recommendation #44

Create and apply an “Equine Welfare” scoring for the Olympic Games, explaining it to the media and the general public as a ranking for “benevolent sport”.

Recommendation #45

Use the evaluation frameworks validated by the equine industry to award an “Equine Welfare” score at the Olympic Games, and entrust this mission to the “Welfare Committee” composed of independent experts who will carry out their work on site and via video surveillance.

Recommendation #46

Make the Paris 2024 Olympic Games the Olympic Games of equine welfare, by applying the Equine Welfare Charter and Good Practice Guide produced by the FNC (Federation Nationale du Cheval), l’AVEF (Association Vétérinaire Equine Française), FFE (Fédération Française d’Équitation), France Galop, the GHN (Groupement Hippique National) and Le Trot.

Summary and conclusion

Respect and the welfare of horses in competition is under increased scrutiny by animal welfare organisations, the public and industry.

The Tokyo Olympic Games gave a very poor public image on these issues.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be particularly closely watched and must therefore be irreproachable in their handling of equine welfare.

Many of the recommendations in this report are dependent on the evolution of the FEI’s rules for equestrian events.

It is therefore essential, that the 2024 Olympic Committee takes strong measures alongside the FEI and the FFE to guarantee the sustainability of this sport, and that societal acceptance of the constraints imposed on equine athletes can be in line with the evolution of our society, which appears to be increasingly sensitive to the respect of animal welfare.

These recommendations will probably seem excessive to some professionals and insufficient to some animal protection groups. This undoubtedly means that the cursor is well placed, reasonable and not excessive. A balance that would allow horses, riders, teams, organisers and France to enjoy a wonderful Olympic Games in Paris 2024, placed under the sign of the well-being of horses.

You are reading the Summary of the Report.

Click here to keep reading the full report in English. Part 2 gives context to the recommendations.