Education, Collaboration and a Practical Approach Key to Protect Invisible Horses of the Future
World Horse Welfare’s Annual Conference (30th November 2017) featured a host of speakers from across the equestrian sector who came together to discuss and debate how best we can protect the ‘invisible horses’ of the future.
The conference was opened with the charity’s President, HRH The Princess Royal who spoke of the changes in equine care and management over the years and stressed the importance and significance of a practical approach to safeguarding welfare. The Princess Royal also spoke of World Horse Welfare’s achievements over its 90 year history, highlighting the invisible horse concept and stressing the importance of collaboration.
Entrepreneur, businesswoman and Dragon’s Den star, Deborah Meaden gave her personal perspective on the ways in which horses can go from visible to invisible through their lives, how education is critical in protecting the horses of the future and how technology has a vital role in this.
She said: “When I look forward to the future, I’ve got immense hope. We’re becoming more connected with the world than we’ve ever been and technology is a fantastic thing for education. People can’t care if they don’t know. I get immersed in all of these stories of rescued and rehomed horses and I wish we could make it stop and then I realise that we can. We can because we’ve got the knowledge, we’ve got the care and we’ve got the tools.”
Animal welfare scientist and ethologist Michael Appleby OBE discussed the importance of ensuring working equids are appropriately recognised and represented at government level and the pressing need for evidence of these equids on their owners’ lives.
He said: “The key is in balancing welfare and productivity. It could well be that increased welfare does increase productivity but we must have evidence in order to demonstrate this. We need quantitative data in order to persuade governments and policymakers that benefits to equines are benefits to the people who rely on them.”
A discussion panel chaired by Sky News Sports Editor Nick Powell and including Olympic gold medallist eventer Sir Mark Todd CBE, Vice President of the RCVS Chris Tufnell, Kate Hoey MP and World Horse Welfare Chief Field Officer, Claire Gordon, debated the meaning of responsible equine ownership from birth to death. The discussion covered a number of areas with debate on how to improve the most pressing welfare problems facing the UK’s equine population from legislation to education.
World Horse Welfare Chief Field Officer, Claire Gordon, said: “Education and dissemination of information is the key driver of behaviour change so we need to identify why people are breeding with no purpose – then we can decide how to best deploy our resources.” The group agreed that partnership working and collaboration are both key to tackling equine welfare issues with Claire continuing, “No one charity has the resources to tackle all the welfare problems. I consider other equine charities as my colleagues – we work so closely together to solve the problems together.”
World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, completed the day with a reflection on the morning’s presentations and his thoughts on the challenges facing the invisible horses of the future.
He said: “In order to bring sustainable change for the horses of the future, we must bring practical, actionable and real-world solutions to tackling both current and emerging welfare problems. True change can only happen through engagement, understanding and constructive, open-minded dialogue.”
Roly went on to discuss the importance of recognising the diverse role of equines across the globe and finished the day with an announcement that working in partnership with the FEI, World Horse Welfare will be leading on the first ever World Horse Day which will take place on 17th September 2018. He said: “We invite each and every one of you to join what we hope will be a worldwide movement to celebrate all that is the horse. The more we can focus the spotlight on them, the more they will be seen and the less they will be invisible.”