Horses in high-performance sports – where the sport ends and animal care becomes relevant.

Found a few months ago Olympics 2020 held in Tokyo. In addition to equestrian disciplines such as dressage, jumping, and competitions, horses can be seen competing in another competition: the modern pentathlon. This consists of an array of disciplines of gun shooting, swordsmanship, swimming, cross-country running, and of course, showjumping.

In showjumping, the athlete must complete a course with 12 to 15 obstacles with his horse, which is pulled 20 minutes before the competition and made available by the organizer.

This year, the focus was on one sport in particular, which didn’t get along at all with the horse it was drawn to – and vice versa, of course. After initially not wanting to enter the track, the horse finally refused in front of the obstacles. The tired-looking rider, who was on his way straight to a gold medal and only had to complete the entire course, broke down in tears and used the whip on the horse, also stunned, spurred on by her coach with the words “Hat correctly! Hit it!”. The trainer hit the horse in the side with her fist.

In the end the passenger was disqualified. Not because of her behavior, but because of her four failed attempts. Meanwhile, some organizations, such as the German Animal Welfare Association, have taken legal action against the jockey and trainer.

Since then, not only the modern pentagon, but above all the design of the organization by officials and High performance equestrian sport In general it is under discussion. However, from a legal point of view, and not only since the Tokyo Olympics, the question arises when to treat horses Related to animal care Will, as well animal cruelty are classified.

The Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) regulates and punishes cruelty to animals. In fact, in § 17 TierSchG. Before examining this criterion in more detail, it is worth taking a look at it § 1 TierSchG. There it says

1The purpose of this law is to protect the life and welfare of human beings from their responsibility to animals as other beings. 2No one shall cause pain, suffering, or harm to an animal without a just cause.”

The Animal Welfare Act describes this human responsibility very clearly and prohibits, for example, the Anti-Corruption Act. § 3 Paragraph 1 TierSchGto require an animal (other than in an emergency) to perform services it is clearly not accessible due to its condition […]”.

According to Article 17 of the TierSchG, it is also punishable,

“World Health Organization

  1. Kills or kills vertebrates for no good reason
  2. a) Causing severe pain or suffering to vertebrates out of brutality
  3. severe or prolonged or recurring pain or distress


Basically, cruelty to animals is what we mean Unnecessarily torturing, abusing or killing animals. But not all forms of cruelty to animals are so obvious that they are instantly recognizable. She stays in equestrian sports in particular Often unrecognized.

Horse species have long been deprived of their natural habitat, freedom. Where there are horses, there are also people. The horse is used for its needs, both in breeding and in sports – especially in high-performance sports, but also in recreational sports. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of humans to protect the horse.

German Equestrian Federation (FN) So he has published nine ethical principles for horse lovers, among which principles No. 3, 7 and 8 are of particular importance to the equestrian sport:

Principle #3: A horse’s physical and mental health is of paramount importance, no matter how it is used.

Principle 7A person who practices sports with a horse must train for himself and the horse entrusted to him. The goal of all training is the greatest possible harmony between the human and the horse.

Principle 8The use of the horse in equestrian, general, and competitive sports should be based on the horse’s inclination, performance and willingness to perform. The effect on performance through drugs and human influences inappropriate to horses should be rejected and punished.

Although presented as principles by FN, they are often overlooked in the equine world.

Examples To handle horses in a way that is relevant to animal welfare and is therefore officially prohibited, for example, Rollkur / Hyperflexion (Deliberately pulling the horse’s head down toward the chest with the bridle), that bars (The moment the horse jumps off the obstacle, hitting a steel pole causes the horse to lift its legs up to avoid being thrown; however, so-called “touching”, i.e. the use of hand tools eg by horse professionals is recognized as a training method) or that blisters (The horse’s skin at the crown above the hoof is rubbed with a substance that causes inflammation, so that it hurts to hit the legs on the crossbar so that the next time the horse pulls its legs up.)

This is how they are too Skin horse with whip or Improper use of spurs It is considered cruelty to animals. But also the demand for performance that the horse does not reach because of its condition, for example because of panic.

The extent to which the aforementioned Olympian and her coach, as well as the organizer, are accused of such intentional behavior related to animal welfare in the presently identified case is controversially debated. However, this incident will certainly have consequences for the equestrian sport.

Do you have questions about horse law? Then feel free to contact me for a comprehensive consultation.


In the meantime, it was decided that the modern pentathlon would be held without equestrian sports in the future, but only after the 2024 Olympics in Paris. This decision of the UIPM at the meeting of its Board of Directors in Monaco will be welcome from the point of view of animal protection law.

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has dropped the lawsuit against athlete Annika Schleu against the payment of a sum of money benefiting a charitable organization.

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