Thanks to new live streaming and the power of social media the National Equine Forum has become a global phenomenon. The annual event, held in London on 8 March 2018, saw politicians, vets and equestrian business leaders share knowledge and encourage debate not just with the packed auditorium but also with audiences in Europe, Norway, the USA and Australia.
Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity at Defra, was the first speaker of the day and provided an update on Defra’s current horse-related priorities. On the Tripartite agreement the intention was for movements to continue with minimal delay. New passport regulations would be implemented as soon as practical and the aim was to extend microchipping to all equidae of all ages. On horse riding establishments he said it is vital they act as ambassadors of modern welfare standards and that new regulations were in progress to maintain standards and ensure inspectors were suitably trained. On ragwort he emphasised that landowners must take note it is a very dangerous plant and needs to be taken seriously. He described the Central Equine Database as ‘a force for good’ and concluded that “The horse is central to our fabric of society, and we are working to ensure it is safeguarded”.
Jeanette Allen, Chair of the UK Equine Sector Council Steering Group; Chief Executive of The Horse Trust, and Lynn Peterson, Chair of the British Horse Industry Confederation and Chief Executive of The British Horse Society, updated the audience on the merging of the UK Equine Sector Council and the British Horse Industry Confederation into the British Horse Council to harness the power of speaking with one voice. Jeanette reminded equestrian organisations that “we are stronger together, join the conversation”.
Stewart Everett, Chief Executive of Equine Register, provided an update on the Central Equine Database. He reported that the database is now live and has 1.2 million records on it, but “The system will only work if we have every equine on it”. The chip checker is expected to be launched in April 2018 and will be free to use. Find out more at www.equineregister.co.uk
John Bourne, Director of Animal and Plant Health at Defra, spoke about livestock traceability and how it relates to the UK’s horses summarising that “We are working to co-create solutions that work for all animals and we are working with the British Horse Council. We are aiming to have a central, unified platform for all species that is more user friendly”.
Next up was an animated and informative panel discussion on potential solutions to the challenges facing small equestrian businesses, chaired by Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP. The panel comprised Carol Andrews, owner of Wimbledon Village Stables and owner of Equicise, Nick Gauntlett, Director of Chescombe Farm and Stud, Victoria Highfield, Director Online for Equine and Emma Williams, Director of Fundraising at World Horse Welfare.
The panel’s first question addressed the issue that some businesses are being faced with rate increases of 350%. The consensus was that if you feel the valuation is incorrect you must appeal. “We need to keep pushing for a fair and equal system”, said Dame Caroline. The panel also discussed the importance of compliance with new General Data Protection Regulations, which comes into force in May, health and safety along with safeguarding, and recruitment and retention of staff.
Nick Rust, Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Authority, looked at the vital role of equine welfare and its perception within British Racing and maintained that “our sport has to adapt (with welfare and diversity) to be relevant to the young generation”, and that “Racing must be open and transparent to the public and show what we do for our horses”.
The afternoon commenced with a session on equestrian safety.
Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety, The British Horse Society, outlined the BHS’s Dead? Or Dead Slow? Campaign to encourage drivers to pass horses safely and specifically highlighted the importance of riders helping to influence driver behaviour when passing horses. He illustrated the gravity of the situation with the latest statistics: 2,900 road incidents involving horses since 2011, with 39 riders killed and 230 horse fatalities.
Michio Clark, Research Fellow at University College Dublin, stepped in for Professor Michael Gilchrist who was unable to attend at short notice, to discuss current research and development in helmet design and testing. He explained how studying real world accidents can help us better understand the mechanism which lead to head and brain injuries. They had been able to reconstruct cases from Horse Racing Ireland and British Eventing and had inspected 100 helmets involved with an impact.
Sam Watson, Founder of Equiratings, and Jonathan Clissold, National Safety Officer at British Eventing (BE), discussed the use of data to manage risk in equestrianism and safety in eventing. Sam explained: “Recognising the relationship between performance and risk allows the sports to grow safely and push the boundaries of high performance”. Jonathan Clissold went on to explain how British Eventing is looking to improve the outcome of a fall through course design, including; frangible fences, ground lines, friendly profiles, colours and definition. BE is also working with EquiRatings for performance and risk information.
In the Forum’s first topical spot Dave Jones, Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police and Rural Crime Lead of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, gave an insight into tackling rural crime. He reported: “We are working with the BHS, RSPCA, National Trading Standards and many more. We have a 4-tier system that is used for every issue we are involved in: prevention, intelligence, enforcement and reassurance”.
Next up was Nigel Oakley, Heavy Horse Ambassador, Rare Breeds Survival Trust, who made the passionate plea for recognition of the importance of heavy horses as part of the UK’s culture. “Suffolks, Shires and Clydesdales are all in a state of decline and Suffolk horses could be extinct by 2027”, he warned.
Dr Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics, Centre for Equine Studies, Animal Health Trust, presented the much-anticipated results of a pilot study on the effects of rider to horse bodyweight ratios on equine performance. It showed that if the rider is excessively heavy for the horse in question it can have a negative impact on the performance of the horse. Many variables are involved but ultimately the study should help with the development of guidelines to help all riders assess if they are the right weight for the horse or pony they intend to ride.
Jim Green, Animal Rescue Tactical Advisor, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Director and Co-founder of the British Animal Rescue & Trauma Care Association, won the 2017 Sir Colin Spedding Award and was invited to give this year’s Memorial Lecture. His enlightening talk covered equine emergency rescue; managing risk and meeting societal needs. “In partnership with the Horse Trust we have trained 900 Highways England Traffic Officers” 90% of local authority fire and rescue services now have large animal rescue teams”, he said.
HRH The Princess Royal summarised the day and presented the Sir Colin Spedding Award to Dr Simon Curtis, a practicing farrier in Newmarket, Suffolk in recognition of his exceptional practical and educational contributions to farriery over 45 years. Runner up was the British Grooms Association (BGA).
National Equine Forum Administrator Georgina Crossman said: “This year with our live streaming, speaker podcasts and our new website I feel that the Forum has truly achieved its key aim of informing, educating and stimulating discussion within the equestrian industry, not just in the UK but around the world.”
The popularity of the Forum is consistently growing, and we are conscious that for several years now there has been a waiting list for tickets. By introducing live streaming we can reach so many more people and even more effectively achieve our objective to provide a platform for impartial discussion and sharing of knowledge.”
Visit www.nationalequineforum.com to access streaming of the day’s proceedings and to listen to interviews with some of the speakers and organisers, via #HorseHour podcasts.
The 27th National Equine Forum will be held on Thursday 7th March 2019 at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London.