This Wednesday I had the pleasure to attend the World Horse Welfare Conference 2019; a stimulating and fascinating event in equal parts. George Freeman, Conservative candidate for Mid Norfolk chaired the event that explored the question: Who is responsible?
Speakers from multiple disciplines in the horse community approached this question from a variety of perspectives. We heard from British Horseracing Authority's (BHA) Chair, Annamarie Phelps, on steps the horse racing community were taking to improve horse welfare. Rachel Murray, Ph.D. in exercise associated joint adaption and injury in horses, spoke about exciting developments in bridle design and the importance of a properly fitted bridle. Bronwen Williams, a Mental Health Nurse, presented her findings on animal hoarding, what to look out for as a member of the public, what action needs to be taken to prevent it from happening, and how to report it when found.
The second session focused on the same question and began with an energetic presentation from YouTube star, This Esme. A global sensation, she talked about her responsibility as a social media horse riding influencer to promote horse welfare in her work. Inspector Dave Smith of Kent Police talked about the damage that fly-grazing has to the countryside, the horse and the cost to police. A panel discussion followed between Mike Cattermole, broadcaster and journalist, Joe Stockdale, show jumper, Dr Madeline Campell, veterinarian, Joe Wilson, BBC Sports journalist, Lyndsey Stride, New Forrest commoner and Julie Ross, veterinarian. The discussion made it clear that we all have responsibility for the welfare of the horse, no matter our role - big or small, professional or amateur.
Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal closed the event with a reflective, forensic and humorous speech. The Princess Royal made the point that it is impossible to eradicate risks but is possible to understand risks and to do so is central to being responsible. The Princess Royal also spoke about the need to truly understand the horse and all their idiosyncrasies to make sure each one is looked after accordingly.
We all have a part to play to ensure horse welfare remains at the core of our respective fields and to do all we can for the horse - this special animal we have such respect and love for.