Some of Europe’s most distinguished equestrian leaders have emphasised that all equestrian parties must take collective responsibility for the future health and welfare of all horses.
The declaration was made at Britain’s 22nd National Equine Forum (NEF) late last month, which was attended by more than 200 of the country’s most influential members of the equestrian industry, including NEF President Princess Anne, international equine vets, researchers, riders and trainers as well as equestrian trade business leaders.
Whether addressing the problem of unnecessary breeding and the treatment of unwanted horses, the development of a workable equine ID system and a central database or the ethical use of the horse in sport, the consensus was that the industry should pull together to find long-term solutions, supported by appropriate government legislation and enforcement.
The event also played host to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the FEI and World Horse Welfare, which provides guidelines for welfare in equestrian sport. It also saw the launch of e.hoof.com, a new online, multi-media educational tool for vets and farriers as well as interested owners and riders.
Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, instigated an enthusiastic debate on responsible breeding and horse ownership, saying: “Our aim must be to reduce the number of horses bred, and improve the quality of horses bred, and so diminish the number of horses in a perilous situation. We all have a responsibility to rise to the challenge.”
Nicolas de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour at Redwings Horse Sanctuary discussed their observation that irresponsible owners cause ‘problem’ horses. De Brauwere called for owners to be more responsible not only with breeding but also buying, selling, training, riding plus general care and that they should “address problems rather than move on to another horse”.
Stephen Potter, partner at LJ Potter Partners LLP concluded the session with a look at the role of the horse meat industry in the UK. He identified media pressure as “contributing to the general public’s negative view of euthanasia”. He went on to explain that a review of current drug control legislation, which requires permanent exclusion from the food chain without good scientific reason, would increase the value of unwanted horses that might otherwise become welfare cases, and that such value could significantly improve welfare.
Alick Simmons, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Defra, reported that the Tripartite agreement would come into force in May this year, to provide a higher level of protection from the spread of infectious diseases from France to the UK. Simmons also said that that the equine diseases EVA and CEM could potentially have their notifiable disease status removed, bringing the UK in line with most other EU member states.
On the subject of fly grazing he said the root cause needed to be tackled and that police, local authorities and charities can work together to target perpetrators. Better powers were needed to identify owners and issue appropriate penalties and local authorities should be obliged to act.
Of the current ragwort problem he reported that The Secretary of State had taken a keen interest, that a concerted effort was needed and that active talks with industry bodies were under way to tackle the situation.
On the contentious issue of horse passports Simmons said a set of minimum operating standards for passport issuing organisations was now in place, particularly to make passports more difficult to tamper with. In terms of any new equine ID legislation Simmons said: “Inevitably it won’t just be what the government does but what you can do as well.”
Reiterating the crucial need for a workable equine ID system, Jan Rogers, the British Equestrian Federation’s Head of Equine Development, outlined initial plans for a central equine information system, to provide a robust, co-ordinated facility for an industry that is estimated to be worth £7 billion.
“We have learned a great deal from previous databases and there are things we can improve upon. We need to get the system right for all users, from enforcers to passport issuing organisations to horse owners.”
Five presentations on the topic of “Are you riding straight?” were received from:
- Line Greve, PhD Student, Animal Health Trust: Considering crooked riders from the perspective of a vet
- Haydn Price, Lead Farrier BEF World Class Programme: Exploring the importance of the limb and lever arm in asymmetry of movement
- Vicky Spalding, Equine Physiotherapist, BEF World Class Programme: Factors influencing horse symmetry and the impact this has on the rider
- Mark Fisher, Consultant Master Saddler, BEF World Class Programme: Exploring the importance of the role of the saddle in the interaction between horse and rider
- Louise Broome, Human Physiotherapist, Personal Best: Discussing the prevalence of rider asymmetry and possible causes
Presentations were also made by:
- Dr Isobel Imboden, Research and project Assistant, University of Zurich: Launch of e.Hoof.com
- Andrew Finding, Chief Executive, British Equestrian Federation on behalf of Sönke Lauterbach, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer, German National Federation: The World Scene – Horses in the 21st Century: challenges
- Ingmar De Vos, FEI Secretary General: The World Scene – the FEI, its growth and development of equestrian sport in developing countries
- Paul Bittar, Chief Executive, British Horseracing Authority: Medication and doping control in racing
- Jennie Price, Chief Executive Officer, Sport England: Driving the legacy from 2012
The Princess Royal, President of the NEF, concluded the day by saying that the Forum gives the horse industry a great opportunity to work together.
The National Equine Forum is sponsored by the Association of British Riding Schools, Bedmax, British Equine Veterinary Association, 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, Hadlow College, The Horse Trust, Jeffress Scholarship Trust, NFU Mutual Insurance, South Essex Insurance Brokers, Weatherbys Ltd and World Horse Welfare.
• The Animal Health Trust (AHT) Infectious Disease Group received the Sir Colin Spedding Award at the forum, given in recognition of its work on disease research, surveillance and management, to help protect and safeguard the future of every one of the UK’s horses and ponies. It was received by Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology at the AHT, on behalf of the Group.
The Animal Health Trust has been providing veterinary services to the equestrian industry for more than 60 years. Although its leading scientific research and surgical expertise are world-renowned, the work of the AHT Infectious Disease Group is less publically known but no less laudable.
The AHT’s Infectious Disease group comprises a team of outstanding scientists and vets who supply the detail and data to help the nation’s veterinary surgeons and research analysts make the right decisions. They also provide the expertise that could well save the nation’s horses, especially in the event of a catastrophic outbreak of any of the serious infectious diseases that could so easily find their way to the UK’s shores.
Tim Brigstocke, Chairman of the NEF said: “The National Equine Forum is proud to recognise the members of the AHT’s Equine Disease Group as the heroes they are today. Equine disease poses a growing threat to all of our horses, which makes the work of the AHT Group ever more important, and hence we wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you.”
Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology at the Animal Health Trust, said the group had made several significant breakthroughs in the diagnosis, surveillance, containment and treatment of a number of equine ‘nasties’. These include equine influenza, Strangles and equine herpesvirus. It also provides advice to the UK equine industry on the threats posed from exotic equine disease.
The Sir Colin Spedding Award was established in 2013. The bronze sculpture of a stag beetle by Belinda Sillars was originally to have been awarded to the late Professor Sir Colin Spedding, in recognition of his services to the equine sector – most especially for his extraordinary commitment in founding the National Equine Forum and then being Chair of the Forum for 19 years.
The 2015 National Equine Forum will be held on March 5 at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Westminster, London.
The full proceedings of the 2014 NEF are at www.bef.co.uk.