EEWA’s Year 2022: Campaign against violence towards horses in Finland

In 2022 EEWA’s team worked on a campaign that focused on violence against horses in Finland. The purpose of the campaign was to gather information, spread awareness and start a conversation.

What is it?

We carried out a survey in the autumn of 2021 to find out how common the use of violence toward horses is in the Finnish equestrian scene. The survey gathered a total of over 1300 responses from both horse industry professionals (26% of respondents) and enthusiasts (74% of respondents) such as horse owners and riding school students etc.


The results clearly indicated that the use of forceful and violent methods is common. 

85% of the respondents reported witnessing violence against horses in Finland during the past five years.

72% reported having been told to use force against a horse by someone else.

59% of the respondents said that they had personally used forceful methods against a horse in the past five years.

88% wished that the violence horses have to endure at the hands of humans were talked about more openly.


To implement the questionnaire and the campaign, a project team was formed. The project team consisted of members of EEWA’s board,  horse professionals and communications professionals. The creation of the questionnaire and the following campaign were supported by a group of advisors which consisted of a researcher, veterinarian and an ethologist as well as several animal trainers. 

We defined “forceful methods” as actions taken by humans to end unwanted behaviour or to force a horse to perform. Forceful methods include actions which cause fear, pain, or significant discomfort and distress to the horse. One of the goals of the survey was to find out how people define violence against horses. For this reason we decided not to give it a precise definition in the questionnaire.

The anonymous questionnaire was shared and advertised to horse enthusiasts and professionals on different social media platforms. The communications campaign was done in collaboration with SEY Animal Welfare Finland.

What followed?

The results of the survey were published on social media in the spring of 2022 to kickstart the campaign. Our aim was to gather information, spread awareness and start a conversation. The campaign was successful in achieving these goals. 

Several articles were published in national news outlets, lively discussions took place on social media and the campaign successfully raised overall awareness around the issue of violence in the horse industry.

What's next?

Our next goal is to get the conversation started around all of Europe. We are currently looking for associations and networks who would be interested in carrying out the same kind of a questionnaire in different countries in Europe.

EEWA will provide the survey layout and some materials for the communications campaign for the chosen partners. In case you are interested, please contact us at info(a)

Introduction of EEWA’s Board

EEWA’s board consists of experts from different fields, who share the passion of bringing people to understand the intrinsic value of horses.

Jasmin Niemelä
Chairperson & Co-Founder

Jasmin is EEWA’s Chairperson and one of the founders. She holds  a Master in Educational Sciences and works as a Talent Acquisition & HRD Consultant. For her, volunteering at a Portuguese equine sanctuary was an eye-opening experience, which led to a lifelong path of learning and understanding horses better. One of the most important lessons for her was to start looking at things from the horse’s perspective. She believes the world would be a better place for horses, if archaic beliefs – for example related to leadership and a horse being “bossy” – could be left behind. Instead, people should start asking themselves: What is the horse actually trying to tell me with this behavior?

Elisa Seppo
Vice-Chairperson & Co-Founder

Elisa is the Vice-Chairperson of the board and one of the founders of EEWA. She has a Master’s degree in Economic Sciences (Hanken Svenska handelshögskolan) and works at SEY Animal Welfare Finland as the head of marketing and equine specialist. Elisa’s passion for horses started in her childhood when she was first introduced to traditional riding. She enjoyed spending time with the horses but always had one question on her mind “Do horses have a happy life and do they enjoy being ridden?”. These questions of welfare followed her throughout the years.

After doing horse rescue work in Portugal and going deeper into the newest ethological knowledge about horses, she couldn’t turn her back on the answers she had found; Horses struggle with severe welfare problems all around the world and even in Finland, her home country. Elisa believes that in order to create higher welfare for horses there must be a change in how we think of them and their intrinsic value. The intrinsic value of horses and equines must be prioritized in every decision concerning their lives. Every horse has the right to live a good life, in which they primarily get to live as horses instead of equipment.

Katariina Alongi
Board Member

Katariina is a coach, writer and podcaster, who has been involved with horses all her life.

 Over the last two decades she has transformed from a competitive equestrian and internationally successful trainer to someone who – first and foremost – believes in interspecies empathic communication and cooperation.  Currently Katariina guides equestrians as a rider biomechanics and emotional intelligence coach. Guiding people to understand and appreciate the deep wisdom horses have for humankind is Katariina’s passion and life’s mission. In 2021 she co-authored a book on the subject of emotional intelligence skills for equestrians and her equestrian podcast had thousands of listeners.  


Marjukka Savolainen
Board Member

Marjukka Savolainen joined EEWA because she considers EEWA’s work and the way the organization brings  awareness to equine welfare extremely important and meaningful. Marjukka, too, wants to strive for a better future for horses. Moreover, she finds all the things we can learn from equines fascinating. She is a Senior Designer and is especially looking forward to helping with tasks related to EEWA’s brand and marketing materials. In addition to being a designer, she is a professional contemporary dancer, and regards movement and physicality an excellent way to approach life and stay grounded.

EEWA’s new logo carries an important message of what really matters to a horse

EEWA’s activities have changed along the way, with an increasing emphasis on disseminating awareness, influencing attitudes and sparking debate. The main focus of EEWA’s activities remain in the intrinsic value of horses and the right to a species-specific life, well-being and ethical equitation.

To celebrate EEWA’s three-year journey fighting for a better Europe for horses, we have decided to update our logo design. The new logo is designed by Marjukka Savolainen and it carries an important message about the fundamental wellbeing of all equines. It highlights one of the most important needs of horses, which is the herd.

– The horse that previously posed alone in the logo has gotten some company. This is a small change, but it carries a significant message. The herd is a very important factor in the well-being of the horse and can’t ever be fully replaced by the company of humans or other animals. This is a statement on how a horse should be seen through its intrinsic value. It is worrying that many horses live without company of other equines, says Elisa Seppo, the president of EEWA.

Marjukka Savolainen, the art director of EEWA wanted to respect the previous design of the EEWA logo while adding company for the horse. The three horses focus their gaze to three directions: to the past, the present and the future.

– The three directions reflect the concept of change. You can always learn from the past, this moment offers an opportunity for change and there is always hope for the future, says Marjukka Savolainen.

The aim of EEWA’s work is to increase respect for the intrinsic value of horses, challenge current practices and make them more horse-driven. This winter EEWA is campaigning to spark a debate about the everyday violent treatment of horses.

For more information contact, phone +358 40 8676655

EEWA’s Year 2021

We decided to take a moment to look back on what has been going on at EEWA year 2021 and share it with you.

In the spring we welcomed three new members to the EEWA’s board: Coach, writer and podcaster Katariina Alongi, senior designer Marjukka Savolainen and non-profit sector professional Sari Bernardo joined our team. With their skills and experience, we will be able to develop EEWA’s operations and work more efficiently on our mission to improve equine welfare in Europe. We are very excited and happy to have these three on our team!

In addition to having new members on our board, EEWA has succeeded in networking with other associations and experts. In 2021 we started a collaboration with SEY Animal Welfare Finland and photographer Sanna Kostamo. Sanna has pledged to donate 5% of the sales of her beautiful Wild & Free prints to EEWA.

Picture: Pixabay

After the events that took place in Modern Pentathlon in the Olympic Games, fair treatment of horses has been a big topic worldwide. EEWA, along with many others, took a strong stand concerning the matter and luckily this led to action taken by the UIPM.  

However, violent actions towards horses is not only a problem in Modern Pentathlon. Every day horses are physically and mentally abused in training, riding and competing at stables all over the world. Archaic training methods and lack of knowledge lead to compromising situations in terms of animal welfare. We at EEWA believe that violent treatment of horses is a topic that needs to be discussed and addressed in the equestrian world. Therefore, our main project in 2021 focused on mapping the treatment of horses in Finland. The project received funding from Suoma-Viiala foundation to conduct a survey on the topic. With nearly 1400 responses the project team along with a group of expert advisers are now analysing the survey results, which will be published through a campaign in the spring of 2022. Finland was selected as the country for this study, since EEWA’s core team is located in Finland. In the future, this survey can be used to map the situation and attitudes in other European countries as well.

In addition to working on the survey and the related campaign, we have commented on topical events in the equine world, such as the horse meat transport. We have also been following the developments concerning the Pelos Equideos’ petition, which unfortunately wasn’t accepted by the Portuguese Parliament.

Picture: Pixabay

EEWA has operated for three years and during this time many things have changed. In our first year of operation we were able to meet many people in our seminar and during our visits to rescue organisations in Portugal and Spain. During the pandemic, however, we have been forced to come up with new ways to work towards our mission. At the same time our focus has become clearer: spreading awareness and sharing knowledge is the best way for EEWA to impact and improve equine welfare in Europe. 

EEWA’s operations rely on volunteers who choose to use their time and expertise to make Europe a better place for equines. We highly appreciate everyone’s effort and want to thank you. This wouldn’t be possible without all of you – our team members, supporters, collaborative partners and followers! 

PS. We are looking forward to continuing to grow our network next year as well. If you are interested in working with us – collaborating, volunteering in a project, supporting our work, or maybe even joining our board – don’t hesitate to be in touch! You can reach us via our contact form or email info(a)

Elisa & Jasmin

Elisa Seppo

Founder & President

Jasmin Niemelä

Founder & Vice President

Pelos Equídeos: Working for better rights for Portuguese equines


Three horses standing under the tree
Picture of rescued horses by Janine Behrens

One of EEWA’s key objectives is to raise awareness of the equine welfare situation in Europe and support people that work to better equine welfare. In this report, we’ll offer you a chance to see the equine welfare situation in Portugal from a perspective of a civic activist Patrícia Pereira. Patrícia is the founder of a civic movement called Pelos Equídeos, which translates to “for the equines” in English. Patrícia has dedicated the past 1,5 years to the purpose of changing the Portuguese laws to protect the equines better, so she truly has a firsthand experience about this issue.

We met Patrícia in November 2019 when we were visiting organizations and people who work with equine welfare issues in Portugal and Spain. At that time, Pelos Equídeos was still collecting signatures for their petition which aims to guarantee the legal protection of the Portuguese equidae. Pelos Equídeos delivered the petition to the Assembly of Republic with 11,500 signatures of Portuguese people. If the petition succeeds, it will make a huge difference in equine welfare in Portugal.

The purpose of this report is not only to raise awareness, but also to ask equestrians all over Europe to show that we too stand for the rights of all equines in Portugal. Now, as the petition is handed to the Portuguese Assembly of Republic, we have a chance to raise our voices to give Portuguese equines a better future. Now is the right time to show that we don’t accept the ill-treatment and abandonment of equines that happens every day in Portugal. Things need to change.


The equine welfare situation in Portugal from Patrícia’s viewpoint

Patrícia has now spent 1,5 years reporting cases of neglect and ill-treatment of horses and other equines to the Portuguese authorities. In short, she describes the Portuguese equine welfare situation as very dramatic and disastrous. She told us that from her viewpoint, Portugal is a country with two sides when it comes to equines:

“Portugal is a country with strong equestrian traditions, holder of the much admired Lusitano horses. The country organizes historic and stunning equestrian events. This “wonderful world” ends up masking the other side of reality, the dark side: the excessive reproduction with questionable control, the uncertain fate of foals that are born without the desired characteristics and horses that have ceased to serve the purpose of their owners. Many of these animals end up pulling carts until they collapse, or abandoned to hunger and thirst until they die, or in traffic for clandestine slaughter.”

A malnourished horse tied to the ground in Moita, Portugal

In addition to this, Patrícia brought up people’s insensitivity towards equines. One example of such insensitivity towards horses and other animals is the tradition of bullfighting. For some, it might come as a surprise that bulls are not the only animals suffering from this brutal tradition. Horses are deeply involved too, since in Portugal the bullfighter usually rides a horse in the arena. This, of course, causes the horse unbelievable physical suffering – not to mention the stress and fear. 

Patrícia also thinks that current laws are not protecting horses and other equines. She has faced many situations where the legislation has failed to protect the equines. She says:

”Current laws and enforcement methods are not discouraging to violence against equines and are proven insufficient in the effective protection of these animals. Usually the cases are extremely violent and still not considered a crime. The penalties are reduced to fines that are often not paid and cases are archived in the process.”

She also recognizes that the Portuguese authority doesn’t have the means to act effectively in order to protect horses and other equines:

“The lack of means: the absence of sanctuaries or appropriate places to receive equines, means that they are maintained with the aggressors. Most police stations do not have microchip readers, or even adequate transportation for horses.”

This means that despite the efforts of the rescuers, even violent cases of neglect can end up with the owner keeping the horse and receiving no consequences for the suffering they have caused. Often, the situation unfortunately doesn’t get any better over time.


Patrícia tells us that even if a horse is clearly suffering or close to death, there’s not much you can do without the owner’s permission. She says that if someone rescued the horse without the owner’s permission, they could be accused of theft. According to Patrícia, there have been many unfortunate cases where the owners have refused to give the horse up. Many who work at rescue organizations report that this is the most devastating and frustrating part of their work; seeing a horse suffering and being unable to help it.

Patrícia gave us a devastating example of this kind of situation. In December 2019 they tried to rescue the horse in the shocking pictures  below. Patrícia doesn’t know the official name of the horse, but she and her colleagues call him Blondie. Blondie didn’t have a microchip and Pelos Equídeos obtained an authorization to rescue it. Pelos Equídeos arranged a vet, a transport and an adopter who agreed to rehabilitate the horse. Arranging all this took a lot of effort; the rescue operation involved several people who spent the night under a storm at Blondie’s side. However, Blondie’s owner showed up and the police handed him back to the owner. This is how Patrícia described her feelings:

“It is desperate to see the animal there, hungry, thirsty, often injured, and not be able to help it.  You make every effort, discuss with the authorities, and all without success.”

Pictures of Blondie by Pelos Equídeos

Unfortunately, this is only one example of many similar cases. It is also a clear example of why Pelos Equídeos is needed and why the importance of their petition can’t be emphasized enough. There needs to be a change in Portuguese legislation regarding horses and other equines.


Three horses running in sun
Picture of rescued horses by Janine Behrens

The biggest goal of Pelos Equídeos is to improve the legal protection of horses and other equines through their petition. Patrícia sums up the key points of the petition as follows:

“The key points of the petition are precisely the request for criminalization of ill-treatment and abandonment, more inspections, support for associations dedicated to receiving equines and means for the authorities to act effectively.”

Patrícia believes that if the key points of the petition are reached, there will be a significant reduction in illegal activity. She believes that the owners of equines will change their behavior regarding the welfare of their animals, if the ill-treatment and abandonment of horses and other equines is criminalized. Patrícia and her colleagues believe the final decision regarding the petition will be made in the summer of 2020.

We also asked Patrícia, if there is something people living abroad could do to help. This is her answer:

“Yes! We ask people to be aware of what happens in Portugal with equines and to spread the word. We also ask that, as much as possible, they support our associations which do not have any government support. In addition, there are many equines who are victims of suffering waiting for a home. Consider adopting in Portugal.”

These are great pieces of advice for the rest of us. However, if you are considering adopting, please be careful! Make sure that you aren’t accidentally creating a market for malnourished equines: get to know the rescue organization properly and visit, if possible.

The importance of this petition can’t be emphasized enough, as it could fix many of the biggest problems related to equine welfare in Portugal. By sharing this report and posts concerning this issue, you are joining us on the mission of raising awareness and showing that we care. Now is the time to raise our voices, as it might be crucial in order to give a better future of equines in Portugal.

The first year of equine welfare association – Year 2019

Founding EEWA and building organizational infrastructure

EEWA's Vice President Jasmin Niemelä (on the left) and Their Voice Portugal's President Sharon Clarke (on the right) giving rescued horse, Joao, a bath at TVP in 2018

Equines are in desperate need of help

We feel that now it is a good time to look back at 2019 and what we at EEWA have been working on. EEWA was founded in February 2019, and the first year was the year of building everything from scratch. It all started when we, the founders of EEWA, volunteered at an equine rescue organization Their Voice Portugal in 2018. We saw too many serious cases of neglect and after returning to Finland felt like we couldn’t walk away from it anymore. Most of the problems were caused by a huge lack of knowledge. Therefore, we decided to establish an association that spreads awareness, provides education and works together with equine rescue organizations.

Elmo asking if his food is ready at TVP
Dahlia, one of the horses that TVP has rescued

Equines need a network of compassion and care

We believe that improving equine welfare can be done by creating a network of people who want to make a difference and help horses and other equines. Hence, year 2019 consisted of building EEWA’s network and meeting dozens of amazing people. We attended Hanko Seahorse Week, Helsinki Horse Fair and The Horses Fair in Tampere, as well as visited rescue organizations in Spain and Portugal. In between these meetings, we built our infrastructure, took care of the administrative work, did a lot of research, and explored the best ways to help horses and equines in Europe. 

Launching the first concrete activities

At EEWA Equine Welfare Seminar in Helsinki, October 2019

The first EEWA Equine Welfare Seminar

In October 2019 we organized our first seminar in which the theme was a science-based and horse-friendly approach to working with horses. During the two-day seminar in Helsinki the participants saw presentations by six amazing equine professionals. In the seminar, we talked about the needs and behavior of horses as well as the role of emotions and training when working with horses. Speakers were equine professionals who truly viewed the horse as an animal with feelings and needs, instead of an object that exists to serve humans. Promoting the intrinsic value of equines is important to EEWA, and it was critical that the speakers at the seminar shared our view. 

Panel discuession with Nina Laiho, Heta Rautiainen and Verna Vilppula
Heta Rautiainen talked about critical thinking and scientific knowledge

The seminar was a success and we received great feedback from the participants. This first seminar required a lot of work, so we were extremely happy everything went so well. We were especially grateful for the warm, accepting and friendly atmosphere – thank you everyone who took part in the seminar! 

EEWA's President Elisa Seppo thanking seminar speakers Katariina Alongi, Aino Koivukunnas and Kati Riesen
EEWA's Vice President Jasmin and President Elisa on the stage giving a presentation about EEWA

During the year, it became even clearer that education is an important focal point to EEWA. Seminars are a great way for us to share science-based knowledge and raise awareness in Northern European countries. Above all, however, seminars are a good way to raise money for our educational projects in countries with striking equine welfare problems. After all, this is what we want to focus on and the reason EEWA was founded.

Creating hope through education - in the search for cooperation projects

EEWA's President Elisa and Vice President Jasmin in Spain meeting Veronica Sanchez (in the middle) from Refugio del Burrito and Jill Newman-Rogers (on the right) from ARCH

Getting familiar with equine rescues
of Portugal and Spain

After the first seminar we shifted our focus to our trip to Spain and Portugal. During this trip we met people who work in various ways to improve equine welfare in Spain and Portugal. During our nine-day visit, we met people from ARCH (Andalucian Rescue Centre for Horses), El Refugio del Burrito (Donkey Sanctuary in Spain), Their Voice Portugal, Country Quest Portugal, Algarve Horse Alarm and Pelos Equideos. In order to build a common ground for possible collaborative projects in the future, the purpose of the trip was to meet and become acquainted with people who are working to improve equine welfare.

Visiting Refugio del Burrito (Donkey Sanctuary in Spain)
EEWA's President Elisa and a donkey that was rescued from Mijas (Spain) where he used to pull a donkey taxi

During the visit we learned a lot and had many great and insightful conversations. We discussed equine welfare problems in Spain and Portugal, relating to e.g. people’s beliefs and habits, socio-economic situation, and legislation. In addition, we found some common interests and agreed on the importance of education to improve horse and equine welfare in these countries. We also met rescued horses and donkeys, and heard their heart-breaking rescue stories. 

TVP's President Sharon Clarke and EEWA's President Elisa saying hi to Sakura who stole Elisa's heart already in 2018
Happy horses enjoying each others company and freedom to move and express themselves at Country Quest Portugal

As devastating as it was to see all the neglected equines and hear their rescue stories, we are grateful for all the meetings we had with the amazing people who are dedicated to helping these horses and equines. We are also as determined as ever to do everything we can to improve horse and equine welfare in Europe. 

Closing the first year and opening EEWA’s second year full of amazing projects

Horses standing in a misty sunset
Rescued horses at Their Voice Portugal (©Janine Behrens)

Overall, 2019 consisted of a lot of learning, succeeding and failing, big emotions, and getting to know the field. By the end of 2019, EEWA has gone a long way as an association: we now have a good network of people wanting to make a change and a clear focus on what we should work on. This enables us to start focusing more on concrete projects to improve equine welfare in the long run. 

Rescued donkey that we met at Refugio del Burrito (Donkey Sanctuary in Spain)
EEWA's President Elisa and horses at Country Quest Portugal

We want to thank our 2019 seminar speakers and equine professionals: Katariina Alongi, Aino Koivukunnas, Kati Riesen, Verna Vilppula, Heta Rautiainen and Nina Laiho, Seminar Team: Aurora Renvall and Ella Svahn, Marketing Team: Mira Färm, Laura Färm and Mimosa Tuomi, and Coach Sanni Kotilainen. Thank you our collaborative business partners and rescue organizations. And last but not least, our Supportive Members and followers: Thank you, without you this wouldn’t have been possible. 

let’s make sure
that at the end of 2020
Europe is a better place
for horses and equines!