We met at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1, Birdcage Walk, Westminster, having survived the journey during the rush hour. We are both glad we don’t have to do that every day! The venue is impressive both from the outside and inside. We were made welcome with coffee and met several people we know including our BHS CEO Lynn Petersen, who sits on the organising committee for the forum. This forum was oversubscribed by 45 unlucky applicants.
The objective of the annual forum is to address matters that could impact on the equestrian industry, including policy changes, scientific developments and cultural initiatives and bring them to the attention of key decision makers. The proceedings are recorded, so anyone wanting further detail on the presentations should be able to source them.
The first presentation was by George Eustice MP – Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment DEFRA. –He said he was proud of Defra. They are currently working on Tightening up on Fly-grazing rules and working on the Welfare of horses and he is pleased with the progress which will be NON Statutory as that gives greater flexibility to change things and keep them up to date. They are looking at abolishing the Council Licence for Riding Schools and introducing ACCREDITATION by way of a licence for all animal establishments. World Horse Welfare supports the principle so long as the implementation does not water down current welfare standards. (See report Horse and Hound 10th March on page 6.) George Eustice voiced his support for leaving the EU as it would allow us to make our own rules re Equines.
Jan Rogers – Head of Equine Development British Equestrian Federation. She spoke about the failure of the current passport system with no workable database. By July1st the new system will be ready to upload and by 2017 the system will be fully functional. The system will be much more robust with internal and external testing and a Central Database with Enforcement of the rules by Defra and the BHS.
Pamela Thompson – Head of EU Team, Animal Health Policy & Implementation, Defra. She spoke of the work of a team of negotiators she leads, working across the “ Smarter Rules for Safer Food ”, which will bring better regulation across animal and plant health with official controls of disease and Trade. The UK is pushing for better regulation.
Roly Owers Chief Executive of WHW chaired a discussion and Question and Answer session with three Vets and an Animal Health and Wefare Inspector, as the panel. The heading was United we stand, divided we fall. Each panel member gave a short presentation before the audience asked questions. The questions covered Equine Infectious Anaemia and the worries about it. Antimicrobial resistance. Responsible ownership. Overgrazing or a lack of Pasture. Greater awareness of the movement of animals. Notifiable diseases – are the regulations robust enough and whether we have the man power to enforce the regulations. African Horse Sickness- the ramping up of regulations. Whether equines have enough protection from NON qualified people who give ‘non expert advice’! (This session was brilliantly chaired by Roly, but even with the microphones, it was very difficult to hear some of the panel members and audience participation.
Dr Richard Newton head of Epidemiology and Disease AHT, gave the Inaugural Memorial Lecture in a 5 minute slot. He presented a huge amount of information within his short slot. Diseases spread from one species to another :- Endemic : Strangles. Redwings- as a example – went public so controlled the outbreak. Threat of novel influenza strains in Equids. Vaccines effective but not instantly available. Vector borne diseases:- West Nile Virus (WNV) In the North Kent Marshes – from Europe. Effective vaccines are available. Midge borne diseases:- African Horse Sickness (AHS) Legislation and plans in place. Trade with Africa a concern.
Equine Dourine Outbreak in 2012. Glanders in a German horse. Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) Swamp Fever – in a Cornish Horse. NO effective vaccine. Movement limitations . Euthanasia. Glanders at the Rio site. E. Herpes at our National Stud – Went into lockdown. Went public. Have sorted it. The burden of Endemic Disease is high as well as the emerging diseases.
The afternoon session started with Ben Hart from The Donkey Sanctuar who gave an entertaining and very sound presentation, involving the audience, on Behaviour in All Working Equids. He made 4 points that are at the root of equine behaviour problems. 1. It is the animal’s fault. 2.Everyone is an expert behaviourist . 3. No-one’s got time. 4. Misunderstanding of the true nature of the species. He suggested that many humans fail to recognise fear or danger , panic, or a scared or a worried equine. In order to produce good behaviour in equines, humans must understand the equines reason for his behaviour. Then have the ability to build a bridge between a) where they are now and b) where they want to be. How? First remove all negative detrimental behaviour terminology ! Then progress may be made.
Dr Peter Webbon. Chair of the UK Equine Sector Council for Health and Welfare; Veterinary Advisor, International Studbook Committee. This presentation was given under 4 headings. 1. Genetic manipulations in the horse: This selects the good qualities. It may neglect other characteristics such as durability, temperament, susceptibility to disease. 2. Selective breeding ; Fixes desirability based on genetic criteria. May influence breeding, purchasing and training/management decisions. Could reduce susceptibility to injury and disease and allow horses to realise their athletic ability. 3. Gene therapy or gene doping; Introduction of DNA to cure disease. Genetic editing. Control and recording of genetic therapy must be documented. 4. Manipulation of heritable genes, is still science fiction.
Prof Derek Knottenbelt Consultant in Equine Internal Medicine, University of Glasgow spoke from the heart on Always Consult the Professional. He started by giving the reasons for NOT doing so:- Expense ; I can do it myself; the professional knows less than I do; the professional was wrong last time; I have the required medication. A Professional is a person with a qualification by training. He stated that homeopathic vaccines and medicines do not work. Often non professionals miss the cause of the problem. Wounds should have nothing put on them that you would not put on yourself. Slides of badly managed wounds were shown, proving the point of the presentation. It was an excellent presentation.
The 1st of three 5 minute topical slot presentation was given by Prof Celia Marr with the heading:- God helps those who help themselves. Prof Marr is Editor of Equine Veterinary Journal: Chairman of the Veterinary Advisory Committee and on the Horserace Betting Levy Board. ( We looked at each other at the end and neither of us understood the point of the presentation! )
The 2nd topical slot, was excellent :- Just a matter of proportion? By Tony Tyler. Tony was a BHS Assessor for many years so some of you may remember him. He is now Deputy Chief Executive of WHW. Tony said that if it looks wrong it probably is wrong! He had the onerous task of talking about oversized riders on horses/ponies. He said that the only guideline of the rider being no more than 10% of the horses weight, is not very realistic and 15% is acceptable but over that is an issue. 20% is a definite NO. As yet none of the disciplines has acted on riders who are overweight for their mount, but the Showing fraternity are putting guidelines together.
The 3rd topical slot was headed :-Tweeting for Tokyo given by Natasha Adkinson International Para Dressage Athlete, BEF World Class Podium Potential. Natasha talked passionately about the use of social media sites to gain public awareness and funding for Olympic and paralympic athletes.
Dan Hughes , Equestrian Performance Director BEF, gave a 15 min presentation on The Challenges of the RIO Olympic and Paralympic Games 2016. There are high expectations after the successes of the 2012 London Olympics re medals. Dan said that Rio is a vast city, very spread out and getting around is a challenge. It is a city of contrasts with the poor and affluent areas in close proximity to each other. The plan is for specialist buses in special bus lanes to transport teams. However to get to the Equestrian site from the Olympic site, a tunnel still has to made by blasting a hole through a mountain! The date for completion of this access is 31st July with the games starting at the beginning of August. All Athletes and their supporting teams have to live in the Olympic Village, – that is non negotiable. The only safe place to eat will be in the Village. Flights are booked with 44 horses on a plane . The Equestrian team of 120 all need managing. Health:- There have been no horses on the site since the test event. Human health :- All that can be done is being done. Challenges are to develop Equestrian Sport and keep it in the spotlight so it remains in the Olympics and to develop and inspire the next generation.
Pip Kirkby, Chief Executive, The Pony Club. She talked of the changes needed to update the image of the Pony Club as membership is in decline. Currently there are 41,000 members; 340 branches and 540 Centres. Under this new Chief Executive (appointed in April 2015) there will be a review to underpin the membership, a recruitment initiative and help for branches to grow their membership . The Pony Club was established in 1929 and is a precious commodity. The barriers to becoming a member are the need to own a pony/horse. The image needs updating and a rebranding will take place. (See letter H&H 10th March from a sensible P.C. mother!)
Dr Jenny Hall, Chief Veterinary Officer, British Horseracing Authority. The horse comes first. Equine welfare in British racing is continually recorded:- Injury monitoring; Each race day is monitored; Runner fatalities recorded; Regulations re: Staff and resources in place; For the future :- Traceability from birth throughout their life, of all racehorses. Clear leadership and accountability is in place.
The President – HRH The Princess Royal arrived at lunchtime and talked with various groups of people over lunch before joining the forum for the afternoon presentations. She concluded the afternoon by thanking all the speakers and audience and saying how valuable the annual forum is for ensuring that the different parts of the Equestrian Industry can keep up with current policies.
She then made presentations to the three finalists for the Sir Colin Spedding Award:- Hon. Walter Gilbey, Baroness Ann Mallalieu and Sue Martin. The winner was Sue Martin who was nominated in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the development of Equine Appretiiceships, leadership of the Equestrian Trailblazer Steering Group and continuing support and enthusiasm for riding schools. Many of you will know Sue Martin who is Proprietor of Trent Park Equestrian Centre . Well done Sue!
The Chairman of the National Equine Forum Tim Brigstocke MBE then closed the forum at 4.25pm on 3.3.16
It was an excellent day with our brains working overtime. An excellent lunch which included smocked salmon and caviar! It has been a difficult task to report on it. We have done our best!
Report by Mandy Luesley and Sue Payne