British Equine Charities Help Welsh Inspectors with Feral Ponies

British equine charities trained Welsh authorities recently on how to handle Wales' feral ponies and keep them healthy.

The trading standards and environmental health inspectors were given hands-on training in how to round up feral ponies and load them onto a vehicle, and how to assess the ponies' welfare. A separate course covered identification and biosecurity measures for common endemic infectious diseases, such as strangles, and exotic diseases such as African horse sickness. The inspectors also learned how to assess the needs of foals and geriatric horses, and how to assess whether a horse is fit to travel.

The training courses, which were organized and run by equine charities The Horse Trust and Redwings Horse Sanctuary, took place March 16-17 at the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies in Monmouth, and March 24-25 at the Bransby Home of Rest for Horses in Stoke Prior, Herefordshire. The training, which was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government's Companion Animal Welfare Enhancement Scheme (CAWES) and facilitated by the Welsh Animal Health and Welfare Panel, was carried out by Nicolas De Brauwere, head of welfare at Redwings, and Liane Crowther, training manager at The Horse Trust.

"Understanding the symptoms of infectious diseases and the control measures that need to be invoked is vital to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," Crowther said. "Local authority inspectors may be the first to come across a horse suffering from a disease, so it's vital that they know what to look for and remain vigilant.

"Wales has a large feral pony population and by understanding the welfare needs of feral ponies, inspectors will know when veterinary intervention is needed," Crowther continued. "The hands-on element of this training program was important as it can be difficult working with animals that aren't used to being handled."

The inspectors that attended the course had all attended an introductory training course last year covering horse handling and how to assess a horse's health, welfare, and environment.

De Brauwere said he was delighted to be working in partnership with the other equine charities to deliver the training.

"It has been a great opportunity to develop the partnership between several of the equine charities operating in Wales and the Welsh Local Authorities, drawing on our respective skills to achieve more effective use of increasingly limited resources in the battle to improve equine welfare in Wales," he said.

"Much has been achieved in the three years of the CAWES scheme and these training days should continue to build on the skills base developed under CAWES to deal with equine welfare concerns of the future in Wales," De Brauwere added.

Steve Jennings, Animal Health and Welfare Officer at Wrexham County Borough Council, who attended the course at Bransby Home of Rest for Horses said he found the course useful, particularly getting hands-on experience of rounding up feral ponies.

"The training was very informative and it was great to have a go at rounding up some semiferal Dartmoor ponies that were rescued by Bransby last year," he said. "The training has given me more confidence in working with equines in the field and will help me give horse owners better advice on improving their animal's welfare."

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