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In the News: Italy leads the way 

Italy’s Arianna Schivo riding Quefira de L'Ormeau at the 2020 FEI Eventing Nations Cup (Image © FEI/Massimo Argenziano)
Italy’s Arianna Schivo riding Quefira de L’Ormeau at the 2020 FEI Eventing Nations Cup (Image © FEI/Massimo Argenziano)

Italy leads the way 

In a landmark decision, the Italian Government has passed a Legislative Decree conferring legal recognition of the role of the horse as an athlete. 

The Italians, it would seem, take their sport very seriously indeed. In September last year, the Italian parliament passed a reform to include sport in the Italian Constitution, citing the ‘educational and social value of sport, in all its forms … and recognising all those who operate and work in the world of sport’. 

And now that same acknowledgement has been extended to horses. Following The Horse Athlete: Protections and Prospectconference held in Italy earlier this year and organised by the Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE) under the patronage of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), a Legislative Decree has been passed ‘conferring legal recognition of the role of the horse as an athlete, alongside the women and men who partner them in competition’. 

The President of the Italian Equestrian Sports Federation, and the Federation’s Secretary General (also acting for the European Equestrian Federation) headed the conference, which was attended by representatives from the FEI, the Italian Ministry of Health, numerous legal experts, and Director of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) Eleonora Ottaviani. 

In a speech given by Ottaviani, she noted that the legislation “provides the opportunity to finally recognise the horse as subject, and no longer object, in our sport. The well-being and welfare of horses has long been an area of mutual collaboration between the IJRC and the FEI … [and now] … for the first time, the words ‘athletic horse’ or ‘athlete horse’ have become a legal term.” 

Specific requirements must be met in order for a horse to be defined as an athlete horse. They must be: 

Registered in the equine directory 

Declared as not intended for food production 

Registered in the directory of athlete horses kept by the FISE as shown in the identification document.  

A spokesperson for the FISE, the organisation responsible for requesting the landmark decision, commented on Italy’s pioneering stand in the legal recognition of horses as athletes: “Italy, with FISE at the forefront, is therefore a world leader for equine welfare, in particular regarding ‘athlete horses’ involved in equestrian sports. This is an historic decision by the Italian government.” 

The legislation may well have a flow on effect when it becomes the benchmark for other legal developments in areas such as horse transport and veterinary controls at both a national and EU level.