As I write this on the train heading back to Cheshire, I am reflecting on what has been a truly thought provoking day at The National Equine Forum.
I firstly want to say a big thank you to the F&I Association for the opportunity for myself and Alex Wyatt to attend the forum. Having arrived slightly late due to train issues I arrived as Dr Richard Newton had started his talk on managing infectious disease risks and his recent experiences and thoughts on the topic. He touched on the recent outbreak of equine flu and how warnings were given but more should have been done to block the chain of transmission.
He then went on to talk about other diseases including EVA and EHV-1. What I found most interesting was his discussion on an outbreak of EHV-1 at a yard, he went into detail on how the disease spread throughout the yard based on the yard set up and management. It was no great surprise that the horses on this yard that were stabled in an American barn style block all contracted the disease with some fatalities. Whereas the horse stabled in the external blocks had much fewer cases spread from horse to horse. He then went on to discuss the importance of bio security in cases of any diseases outbreak but also how people must take responsibility for making the general public aware of any disease outbreak and the role social media has in helping with this.
We next heard from James Hick from the BHS on the work he and a fantastic team of over 300 volunteers are doing to help save our access to public rights of way across the UK. These routes are slowly being lost and need us all to start making sure any bridleways in our area are recorded before 2026. After this any routes that are not on record will be lost permanently.
The next group of speakers came under the heading “Global Issues, National Impact”.
Ian Cawsey, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns from the Donkey Sanctuary started this section off talking about an issue I was completely unaware of. It was the impact that the Donkey skin trade for the production of Ejiao in China was having on the Donkey population worldwide. The demand for this product has seen a drop in over 8 million donkeys and a surge in poachers stealing the donkeys from farmers in developing third world countries. It’s not only sad that these animals are being slaughtered for their skin, but they really are an integral part everyday life to villagers and farmers across many developing countries. The other issue the donkey sanctuary was trying to deal with was the appalling conditions the animals were being held and slaughtered in but also the way in which the carcasses were being disposed of and a complete lack of biosecurity. This was a real eye opener for me, and I will certainly be making a donation to this charity in future.
Next up, we got to hear from Roly Owers, chief executive from World Horse Welfare, on our future with horses and how social licences can help. Now this was a new concept for me (social licensing) but one that made complete sense. Roly talked about how important public perception of horse sport is. Animal rights activists will argue how ‘use is abuse’, but we need to ensure that we educate the public on how we use but don’t abuse our horses. Issues such as use of the whip or marking of horses with spurs have never been more in the spotlight. Social licensing is an unwritten contract between our industry and the general public, and it is crucial that each and everyone of us takes responsibility to promote good horsemanship practices, whether it be on the world stage or just hacking down the road.
This topic was then carried on with Dr Barry Johnson from the Horse Board. He used the racing industry as an example of how important it is to promote good welfare for the horses, not just during their competitive career but from birth right through to retirement.
After a delicious lunch, the afternoon speakers were all talking about improving equine health and welfare by changing our behaviour.
The first speaker was Dr Zac Baynham-Herd from the behavioural insight team. He was giving us an insight into applying behavioural changes to people.
This was followed by Professor Sarah Freeman who is a Professor of Veterinary Surgery from Nottingham University. Sarah Talked about her involvement with the research and development of the ‘React’ campaign which is being run through the BHS. Its aim is to educate people on recognising early signs of colic. The Question is, can an educational campaign such as this change people’s behaviour? The current thinking is that it will take an average of 15 years to implement and see any changes.
Next we heard from David Rendle, Council Member of the British Equine Veterinary Association. His talk was all about Anthelmintic Resistance in horses, the worrying rises in worm resistance and the fact that there are currently no new anthelmintic treatments on the market. His emphasis was focused on the need for educating and encouraging a change in people’s behaviour when it comes to worming programs. Maybe there is a need for an educational campaign targeting large yards on the importance of diagnostic worming?
The final two speakers in this section were Jude Matthews, Chief Executive of British Eventing and Andrew and Abigail Turnbull, Owners and Directors of Richmond Equestrian Centre. They talked about the devastating outbreak of Strangles at the centre last year and how the centre had to cancel their BE event as well as other competitions. Then, how they controlled the outbreak from spreading by carrying out strict Bio security on the yard and continue to do this to this day. It is so easy to become complacent when we take our horses out to competition centres and other yards but listening to these guys talk about the measures they now take, really made me think about my own bio security with my own horses!
We were then treated to a sneak peak ahead of this year’s Olympics. Some photos and a video from Tim Hadaway, Director for Games Operations, FEI and Henry Bullen who is Director of Peden Bloodstock who are responsible for transporting all the equine athletes out to Tokyo. It was great to get a glimpse of what we can expect from Tokyo at the Equestrian Park. Lets just hope that this Corona Virus doesn’t ruin it for us all!
The Final “Memorial” Lecture was given by Kirsty Whitnall from the RSPCA. Kirsty gave us a brilliant insight into the great work she and her colleagues are doing including some horses that have been rescued and rehomed.
But of course, the closing speaker was none other than HRH The Princess Royal. What a great way to end a brilliant day of inspirational speakers by getting to listen to HRH give us her thoughts on the day.
So, in summary, a great day. So much food for thought. I feel we all need to be more responsible for helping make a change. Whether it be horse welfare, educating clients on worming programs, or promoting good bio security, take your pick!
Report by David Llewelyn BHSI