The Annual National Equine Forum was held on Thursday 4th March 2010 in central London. As part of the Forum, and as a result of the interest shown at last year’s forum in Tim Hadaway’s presentation on Greenwich and the proposed site for the equestrian events of the 2012 London Olympics, a tour of that site was arranged for Wednesday afternoon with Tim as tour guide.
Alison Craig and I participated and, interesting and informative as the tour was, we remain sceptical about the choice of site on logistical grounds (it appears to be too small and has poor access) and the lack of any physical legacy. We do however have faith in Tim and his organising group and if, as seems, Greenwich is the venue then we’re sure if anyone can pull it off then Tim can!
For those that may have doubts about the nature and severity of the cross country phase, don’t. It won’t be a galloping course, it will be more like “Gatcombe Open”, with steep gradients, plenty of turning, accuracy at a premium and large crowds in close proximity to the course. “Handy” horses will be a necessity! But although a short course, the topography of Greenwich park will make it a stiff test.
The Equine Forum itself the following day was a mix of very good presentations on licensing and legislation, equestrian culture and on veterinary subjects such as worming and wormers, the link between gastric ulcers and the development of techniques to endoscope galloping horses (indeed it would seem now that static endoscopy is of limited use).
We had a presentation by James Paice MP, Shadow Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on the Conservative Party’s plans for the Horse World. As is normal with most MPs he said much about nothing and unless I drifted off during his presentation the conservatives don’t have any finite plans, which is quite disappointing for the horse industry.
We had two further presentations on licensing for horse establishments and horse identification: the legalities, logistics and welfare issues. As someone who is allergic to paperwork and duplicate form filling, the paperwork these two subjects would generate fills me with foreboding. But I do strongly believe that the two are inseparable and very important to the future of the British horse, especially with regard to welfare and controlled breeding.
Legislation in these areas without robust enforcement is a pointless and irritating encumbrance for already overworked equestrian professionals. It is on the enforcement of current legislation and the prompt and appropriate punishment of offenders that I would like to see more emphasis from our governing bodies, local authorities, legal system and ultimately our government (the Spindles Farm debacle is a prime example of this).
The afternoon had a more leisurely format, with presentations on Horses in Art and the case for a Museum of the Horse in Great Britain. Funds are currently being raised for this project and it should receive our whole hearted support, bearing in mind our equine heritage and its link with our history. There were further presentations on the control of exotic diseases, for which contingency plans are already in place in case an outbreak should occur. But it would seem inevitable that we will suffer outbreaks at some point in the future, largely linked to the climate change we are experiencing, together with the increases in movements of horses internationally. The horse world will have to learn to recognise the symptoms of exotic diseases and to deal with them, but what we don’t need to do is to over-react to the threat.
The afternoon finished with a personal statement from the President, HRH The Princess Royal, whose views remain refreshingly honest, intelligent and reasoned on almost everything!
The whole day was interesting and informative and it is clearly an excellent use of F&I funds (currently £35 per annum) to have the Association remain a “Friend” of the Forum and thus allocate our membership 2 free places each year. I would thoroughly recommend attendance in the future.
Report by Jonathan Chapman BHSI