Social licence to operate

Horse SA provides project management and facilitation for community education and related activities, including conference management. This feature project looks at the sustainability of sport where humans partner with horses.

The term ‘Social licence to operate’ has now well and truly entered the domain of the global horse industry. In a nutshell, social licence is the public acceptance of the sport (or business) to undertake its activity (operations). World Horse Welfare CEO Dr Roly Owners addressed the November 2017 Federation Equestre’ International (FEI) General Assembly on the topic ‘Equestrian Sport and the Concept of Social Licence’, as has the CEO of British Horse Racing Authority Nick Rust, who spoke about social licence and racing at the 2018 National Equine Forum (UK). Australia is also active, with social licence listed as Pillar 7 in the AgriFutures Thoroughbred Research, Development & Extension Plan, as one example.

Social licence is listed as an action in The Horse SA Strategic Plan (item under Goal 3).

Disclosure statement: Horse SA Executive Officer Julie Fiedler is part-time with Horse SA, with the balance of time undertaking a Masters of Communication (by research) with Central Queensland University. The thesis title is ‘Sports horse welfare and social licence to operate: Informing communication strategies’. 


Feature event:


Sport Horse Welfare and Social Licence to Operate
Professional Development Event 13/14 Feb 2019















Conference presentations (YouTube):
Welcome message by Dr Roly Owers CEO World Horse Welfare (and info about WHW) 2 mins.

Development of understanding leading to state-of-the-art welfare assessment  Prof. Emeritus Mellor

 NZ Thoroughbred Welfare  Martin Burns

The winds of change: Reflection on international adoption of evidence-based training  Dr Andrew McLean

Digital hoofprints: Striding out on horse welfare in a social media world  Julie Fiedler

Equine welfare during exercise: Do we have a 'bit' of a problem? Prof. Emeritus Mellor



Development of understanding leading to state of the art animal welfare  Professor Emeritus Mellor

New Zealand Thoroughbred Welfare  Martin Burns

The Winds of Change: Reflections on the international adoption of evidenced-based training   Dr Andrew McLean

Digital Hoofprints: Striding out on horse welfare in a social media world  Julie Fiedler

Equine welfare during exercise: Do we have a 'bit' of a problem? Professor Emeritus Mellor


Media and resources:

'A paradigm shift from care to welfare'- interview with Professor Emeritus David Mellor with Horses and People Magazine.

Media Release: Racing and Equestrian Meet on the Common Ground of Horse Welfare   19 Feb 2019

Interview with Martin Burns on the release of the NZ Thoroughbred Welfare Guidelines with Horses & People Magazine


Download a) workshop notes     b) Simplified    c) Five Domains Model      d) Welfare Circle















General Presentations














Informing a social licence to operate communication framework: Attitudes to sport horse welfare. (PowerPoint)

Download notes for the above presentation  Presented 20 August 2019, International Society for Equitation Science Conference,

The University of Guelph, Canada.


World Arabian Horse Organization Congress, Australia, 8 Feb 2019    Speaker notes     link to the presentation

Social licence to operate presentation at the 24 May, 2018 People.Horses.Culture Conference, Adelaide. 

Sport Horse Welfare & Social Licence to Operate  Equine Cultures in Transition Conference, 19-21 June 2018 Leeds UK

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Far left: Professor Emeritus David Mellor. Left (L) Martin Burns, (R) Dr Andrew McLean. Photos by Cristina Wilkins for Horse SA

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5 D Chart.jpg
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Social riding with hounds

Social riding with hounds

Adelaide Hunt Club



Southern Vales Dressage Club, Aldinga. Photo PYT Equine Photography

Endurance riding

Endurance riding

Northern Adelaide beaches Photo Shirley Ellis

Victor Harbor, South Australia Horse drawn tram

Horse industry

Horse industry

Trail riding

Trail riding

Gawler Trail Horse Riders Club. Beltana Station, Flinders Ranges. Photo: Tamara Godfrey

Events, shows, festivals

Events, shows, festivals

Australian International Three Day Event



The Kidman Trail, McLaren Vale Photo: Michael Mullen

Thoroughbred racing

Thoroughbred racing

Port Lincoln Racecourse Photo: M.Coles