More than 200 of the most influential members of Britain’s equestrian community at the country’s 21st National Equine Forum were told about the government’s plans for Europe-wide testing of meat for horse DNA and improvements to the horse passport system.
The Right Honourable Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, presented a forthright perspective of the equestrian industry, emphasising its huge importance to the rural economy and key role in animal health.
He said: “I believe that Defra’s job is to create the right conditions for rural growth. We need to provide help when it is needed and get out of people’s hair when it is not.”
He went on to address the burning topic of the substitution of beef with horsemeat and the government’s plans to introduce a Europe-wide programme of testing for horse DNA.
On the controversial subject of horse passports, the Minister said there were no current plans to move to a single issuing body and that all the Passport Issuing Organisations needed to help get the system working better. “We will work together to introduce new quality standards for passports, making them more difficult to tamper with.”
Of the demise of the National Equine Database he said: “I know that many of you were disappointed by the withdrawal of Defra funding for the National Equine Database. I am looking forward to hearing the sector’s proposals on what a new central equine database would look like and how that could be managed and funded by the industry.”
The event last week also welcomed presentations from five of Europe’s most distinguished equine vets and played host to the launch of the Equine Disease Coalition’s new Equine Biosecurity Checklist and the new National Equine Youth Forum.
The Forum’s popular veterinary sessions saw Malcolm Morley explaining the 2011 and 2012 changes to the pre-purchase examination of horses, which provide greater clarity for purchasers. Dr Mark Hillyer discussed the risk factors, prevention and treatment of colic. Dr Richard Newton, together with Richard Lancaster, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, discussed the important ways in which the thoroughbred industry and government are working together on the control of equine infectious diseases. Professor Pat Harris explored some of the good and not so good aspects of grass. Professor Pieter Brama discussed whether horses are ready to race as two-year-olds or whether they can be made ready.
The NEF also hosted two launches. The Equine Disease Coalition introduced its new horse care checklist to help horse and yard owners ensure good biosecurity on their stables. In addition Matthew Cobble of the Riding for the Disabled Association announced the launch of the National Equine Youth Forum, to be held on September 1 at Aintree. An inspiring presentation from Natasha Baker, Double Paralympic Gold Medallist at just 23 years old, reiterated the importance of showcasing the determination and talent of young people in equestrianism, which is one of the aims of the new Youth Forum.
Presentations were also received from:
- Ed Bracher, Chief Executive, RDA: A look at the benefits as well as the trials and tribulations involved with encouraging volunteers
- Dr Patricia Pendry Professor of Human Development at the Washington State University, USA: Scientific evidence underpinning the therapeutic advantages of riding
- Jennifer Dixon-Clegg, Director of the Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy: Riding therapy in practice
- Sarah Rainford, the BHS sponsored Eqvalan thesis winner: The effects of riding on the joints of five physically disabled children
- Rt Hon Dame Tessa Jowell DBE MP (previously Shadow Minister for the Olympics): An overview of London 2012
- Andrew Finding, Chief Executive, British Equestrian Federation: London 2012: Did we deliver?
- Hugh Thomas, Director, Badminton Horse Trials: The implications of cancelling a major event
HRH The Princess Royal, President of the NEF, concluded the day and included a Chinese proverb as a poignant reminder of Professor Sir Colin Spedding, chair the Forum for 20 years, who died in December 2012.
The National Equine Forum is chaired by Tim Brigstocke and organised by a committee of individuals reflecting various sectors of the equestrian industry. It is sponsored by the Association of British Riding Schools, Bedmax, BEVA Trust, The Blue Cross, British Equestrian Federation, British Equestrian Trade Association, British Horse Society, British Horseracing Authority, Bulley Davey, Darbys Solicitors, Dodson and Horrell, Donkey Sanctuary, Equine Products UK, Horse Trust, Jeffress Scholarship Trust, NFU Mutual Insurance, South Essex Insurance Brokers, Weatherbys Group and World Horse Welfare.
Full proceedings (pdf)