A host of influential speakers from across the equestrian and charity sectors, including singer, songwriter and actor, Will Young, explored the theme of the ‘Invisible Horse’ at World Horse Welfare’s Annual Conference this month.
Will gave a moving presentation about the plight of the Bodmin Moor ponies and his journey through understanding the issues faced by not only these ponies, but the many others in similar situations all across the country.
He explained that since becoming involved with local charity, Shires Holt, he has learned much more about the invisibility of horses in the UK saying: “In general, there is now a lack of value to the horse yet they still continue to be a status symbol. There is a paradox here. I am just one person who is saying ‘did you know about these problems?’ and people are responding with a willingness to help. ”
World Horse Welfare President, HRH The Princess Royal, gave her thoughts on who should take on the responsibility for horses. She said:“First and foremost responsibility must be with the owner. People need to understand that taking on a horse is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year responsibility. It is not 9-5 or whenever you feel like visiting on a weekly basis.”
HRH also expressed the importance of education in ensuring horses do not end up as welfare cases, and the need to put measures in place to prevent welfare problems – keeping prosecutions as a last resort.
Attention was turned to the world of endurance in the UAE with an enlightening presentation from His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Emirates Heritage Club in the UAE who spoke on the Boutheib Initiative which has made tremendous steps in improving horse welfare in the sport.
He spoke of his strong belief that endurance should not be about the first horse past the post but instead the horse in the best condition at the finish. In a sport which had been rocked by negativity over recent years,
He said: “Removing the focus on speed does not remove competition in endurance. The real competition should be about your horse finishing in the best possible condition.”
Chris Riggs of the Hong Kong Jockey Club presented on equine welfare in China and the many challenges horses there face from a lack of access to specialist equine veterinary care, knowledge and facilities.
Chris also spoke of the equestrian industry’s fast-growth in China, with investment in breeding programmes, veterinary training, the building of a 1,600 horse capacity Thoroughbred training centre, a greater focus on the leisure horse industry and Beijing chosen as host for the 2018 World Equine Veterinary Association conference in which World Horse Welfare will play a supporting role.
World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, spoke of the many different forms that invisible horses can take. He used examples from all areas of the equestrian world to paint the picture of invisible suffering before giving an inspirational and rousing call for everyone to play their part in bringing invisible horses into the spotlight.
He said:“We all have the power to shine a spotlight on invisible horses and invisible suffering. We can all play a part in stamping it out. What strikes me is that organisations can have great power, especially when working in partnership, but the individual can inspire or contribute to real change too. Let’s use our combined motivation and power – breeders, regulators, policy makers, sister charities, horse owners, donors, enforcement agencies and vets – to bring all horses in to the light and give them the care and protection they so desperately deserve.”