Sustainable Equestrianism

The concept of sustainability has become fully embedded in society, not just in the Netherlands but in the Western world as a whole. According to the United Nations (1987), sustainability is defined as “development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. For the equine sector, we can interpret this as meaning that what we do with our horses now doesn’t pose a threat to our sector in the future, and that it in fact will offer long-term protection to the way that horses are handled.

Our vision is for the equine sector to play a leading role in demonstrating what a symbiotic, harmonious and sustainable relationship between people, animals and nature could look like. The applied research group on Sustainable Equestrianism aims to build links between science and practice. Our mission is to develop applied and applicable knowledge based on scientific research, developed in collaboration with the sector and aimed at its needs. To achieve this, we work in partnership with national and international knowledge partners, equestrian sports associations, industry associations, public and government institutions, civil society organisations, entrepreneurs, clubs and, of course, equestrian athletes and horse owners. Our aim is to develop an integrated knowledge chain, and to ensure that partners are mutually supportive and that existing and future knowledge is effectively used and deployed.

The overarching objective of the applied research group is to improve our understanding of the transition to a sustainable and future-proof equine sector, focused on horses themselves, humans, their habitats and the wider natural environment. We do this by considering the various aspects of behaviour change: knowledge and skills, motivation, attitudes, thought paradigms, physical conditions, and social contexts. Based on this, we develop appropriate, applicable and substantiated transition pathways towards a more sustainable equine sector. These transition pathways are based on scientifically substantiated, practical and applied knowledge, while also drawing on validated models from the field of change and transition studies.

There are three overarching pillars of our work, with significant overlap and common ground.

  • Sustainable horse welfare and human behavioural psychology
  • Sustainable business
  • Sustainable environments for horses and humans

The three pillars of the applied research group

1. Sustainable horse welfare and human behavioural psychology
A sustainable equine sector requires harmonious interaction between horses and humans, both on and off the saddle, with the welfare of horses a perennial priority. There is already a substantial existing body of knowledge in relation to horse welfare. However, this knowledge has often not been fully adopted in equine practice. If we are to sustainably ensure the health, welfare and safety of humans and animals, existing knowledge around the identification and assessment of welfare and behavioural issues in horses needs to be better adopted in equine practice.

That’s why our research line in 'Sustainable horse welfare and human behavioural psychology' focuses on how we can put into practice fully substantiated, scientific insights into horse welfare and human behavioural psychology.

Key questions

  • How do innovation and technology contribute to sustainable relationships with horses and harmonious interactions between horses and riders?
  • How can new and existing insights related to the optimisation of equine health and welfare be effectively adopted in equine practice?

2. Sustainable business
There’s no equestrian sport without equine entrepreneurs! It’s thanks to the existence of about 10,000 equestrian sport businesses, 3,000 equestrian centres and associations, and all the entrepreneurs and service providers in the equine sector that our horses are housed and cared for, and that equestrian athletes can pursue their passion and take part in well-organised equestrian events. This all requires the various stakeholders in the sector to act in a responsible manner. It includes the relationships between employers and employees, between equine professionals and their customers, and of course the relationships between all horse owners. Finally, we can only achieve a sustainable equine sector that contributes to a sustainable world if its methods of production are sustainable.

That’s why our research line in 'Sustainable business' aims to make equine entrepreneurs more resilient, by focusing on practical solutions and smart change processes that will lead us towards a healthy, sustainable equine sector. It’s equally important to have high quality, energy neutral housing that meets the natural needs of horses and optimises their welfare, while also contributing to climate objectives.

Key questions

  • What are the main challenges, problems and opportunities in terms of sustainability for equine entrepreneurs, companies, associations and sport/competition organisers?
  • How can we effectively encourage and implement sustainability among equine stakeholders?

3. Sustainable environments for horses and humans
Environmental protection is becoming an integral part of Dutch social values and thereby essential for the equine sector. Previous research has shown that equine settings are very suitable for planting native species and making specific biodiversity improvements, for example by installing nesting boxes and sowing specific herb-rich grass mixtures that attract insects and butterflies, improve the soil and are healthy for horses.

This research line focuses on issues related to the contribution of the equine sector to the protection of natural resources, biodiversity, peri-urban settings, interactions with rural environments, and the natural integration of horses into the Dutch landscape.

Key questions

  • What are the possibilities and limitations in terms of the integration of horses and horse husbandry into sustainable spatial development and peri-urban settings?
  • How can issues such as biodiversity and innovative environmental and landscape management be integrated into existing horse husbandry systems?


Some of the professor’s publications are listed below:

  • Elte, Y., Wolframm, I.A., Nielen, M., van Weeren, R. (2021) Client satisfaction in equine veterinary practice: A structured review and qualitative synthesis, Veterinary Record, July 3, e640
  • Iungano, H.M., Lancaster, B.E., Wolframm, I.A. (2019). Relationship between performance strategies, resilience qualities, riding experience and competitive performance of show jumping riders, Comparative Exercise Physiology: 15 (1): 69 - 76.
  • Williams, J., Lampard, W., Wolframm, I. A. (2016). What makes an elite equestrian rider? Comparative Exercise Physiology. 12 (3): 105-118.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Williams, J. Marlin, D. (2015). The role of personality in equestrian sports: an investigation. Comparative Exercise Physiology. 11 (3), 133 – 144.
  • Wolframm, I. A., Bosga, J., Meulenbroek, R.G.J. (2013). Coordination Dynamics in Horse- Rider Dyads. Human Movement Science 32, 157-170.
  • Whitaker, T., Hargreaves, A., Wolframm, I. A. (2012). Differences in elite showjumping performance between male and female riders. International Journal of Performance analysis in sport. 12 (2), 425-435.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Meulenbroek, R.G.J. (2012). Co-variations Between Perceived Personality Traits and Quality of the Interaction between Female Riders and Horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 139, 96-104.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Micklewright, D. (2011). The Effect of a Mental Training Program on State Anxiety and Competitive Dressage Performance. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. 6, 267-275.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Micklewright, D. (2011). Effects of trait anxiety and direction of pre- competitive arousal on performance in the equestrian disciplines of dressage, showjumping and eventing. Comparative Exercise Physiology, 7 (4), 185-191.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Shearman, J., Micklewright, D., (2010). A Preliminary Investigation into Pre- competitive Mood States of Advanced and Novice Equestrian Dressage Riders. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22 (3), 333-342.
  • Wolframm, I.A., Micklewright, D., (2010). Pre-competitive arousal, perception of equine temperament and riding performance: Do they relate? Comparative Exercise Physiology, 7 (1), 27-36.
  • Wolframm I.A., Micklewright D. (2009), Pre-competitive levels of arousal and self-confidence among elite and non-elite equestrian riders, Comparative Exercise Physiology. 5 (3-4), 153-159.


  • Wolframm, I. (2016). Zelfverzekerd paardrijden in 7 stappen. Bloemendal Uitgevers: Amersfoort.
  • Wolframm, I. (2015). Mentaal fit: perfect rit. Bloemendal Uitgevers: Amersfoort.
  • Wolframm, I. (2015). Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride. Quiller Publishing: Shrewsbury.
  • Wolframm, I. (2014). Anna and the Seahorses: The Lost City. Calabrië Publishing. E-book.
  • Wolframm, I. (2013). The Science of Equestrian Sports. Theory, Practice and Performance of the Equestrian Rider. Routledge: London.
  • Wolframm, I. (2012). Dreamteam Pferd und Reiter: Persönlichkeitsbestimmung im Reitsport. Müller Rüschlikon Verlag: Stuttgart.
  • Wolframm, I. (2011). Springreiten für Einsteiger. Müller Rüschlikon Verlag: Stuttgart.
  • Wolframm, I. (2010). Angstfrei reiten in 7 Schritten. Müller Rüschlikon Verlag: Stuttgart.

About the professor

Inga Wolframm has a Master’s degree in animal and human movement sciences, a PhD in equestrian sports psychology and has conducted international research in various aspects of equestrian sports. She previously worked as a head lecturer at Van Hall Larenstein before moving to the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS). Wolframm spent the past five years at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, where she was responsible for delivering a wide range of projects aimed at improving the health and welfare of animals and humans, in collaboration with partners from the private sector and civil society.

Photo credits: Sanne van Zalen

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the applied research group, please email [email protected].