Opening by FEI President and IMD representative

FEI President Ingmar De Vos opened the FEI Sports Forum, setting the tone for the day and reiterating the purpose and scope of the discussions ahead. “It is hard to quantify just how much influence the Sports Forum has had since it was launched in 2012, but there is no doubt that community consultation has become the norm. We have had a lot of important discussions in this room here in IMD that have gone on to become important decisions”, he said. To illustrate this point, the FEI President itemised an extensive list of consultative forums, seminars and meetings held so far in 2023 with the different stakeholders groups, referring to a “constant state of consultation” and how this was integral to the way the FEI operated and the community’s ability to overcome challenges.

The President emphasised that there was always more that could be done, and encouraged all the delegates predominantly made up of National Federation and Stakeholder Association representatives to acknowledge the concerns of the community, and to work together to further improve the representation of our organisations, by ensuring “there is an honest, open and constructive dialogue” with all stakeholders. He reminded the delegates that this was a process, and that, “we need to accept and support the outcomes from the different consultations, because it is ultimately our collective ability to join forces and to adapt to changing environments that will help secure a successful and sustainable future for our sport.”

In his final opening remarks, he highlighted the importance of the interim report to be delivered by the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission. “The future of our sport and the success of the equine industry depends on all of us individually and collectively taking our responsibilities and demonstrating in everything that we do that we value this relationship above all and will always prioritise the health and happiness of our horses - above all.”

The FEI President then went on to introduce and welcome Professor Cairns-Lee, an Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Communication at IMD known for her award winning research on learning and leadership including the development of self-awareness, authenticity and sense making.

Professor Cairns-Lee focused her speech around two key themes, namely the evolution of society, changing expectations and what this means for an industry or a community, as well as how language reflects values and its importance in establishing partnerships based on dialogue.

“The key to optimal stakeholder engagement is transparent and collaborative consultation and communication. This starts with openhearted conversations that require a willingness to be curious about differences, the courage to embrace different perspectives and a commitment to an intentional use of language to frame effective dialogue and shift societal narratives.”

You will find the full opening speech by FEI President Ingmar De Vos as well as the presentation by Prof. Heather Cairns-Lee in the FEI Documents Library below.