Horse Identification Needs Discussed at British Forum

Horse Identification Needs Discussed at British Forum

Lord De Mauley outlined the plans for the introduction of a strengthened, fit-for-purpose equine identification regime throughout Europe.

Photo: Courtesy Craig Payne Photography

Implementation of a robust and workable equine identification system was pinpointed as the cornerstone for equine health, welfare and management in the United Kingdom, at the 23rd National Equine Forum (NEF), held on March 5 at the Royal Society in London, England.

Whether reviewing the Equine Sector 2015 General Election Manifesto for the horse, discussing the practicalities of equine legislation, the management of health and disease control, or the future of British breeding, the common view was that an efficient equine identification database was pivotal to future success.

The forum was attended by over 200 of the country’s most influential members of the equestrian industry, including NEF President HRH The Princess Royal; Lord De Mauley TD, parliamentary under secretary of state for natural environment and science at the U.K.'s Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs; international equine veterinarians, researchers, riders, and trainers; and equestrian trade business leaders.

Lord De Mauley set the scene for the day by outlining the plans for the introduction of a strengthened, fit-for-purpose equine identification regime throughout Europe.

“A robust regulatory framework is important," he explained, "but to be effective we need people to meet their responsibilities. I would ask you in the sector to help us improve awareness and compliance so people know the importance of doing the right thing.”

The minister gave examples of how the horse industry has worked together successfully over the past year. In 2014 equine exports supported a market worth £96 million to the U.K. economy. Fly grazing was being addressed with government support for Julian Sturdy’s Private Member’s Bill on Control of Horses. In response to concerns voiced by the horse industry the notifiable status of contagious equine metritis and equine viral arteritis (EVA) had not been removed. The revised Tripartite Agreement had been successfully running since May 2014.

Steven Gale, animal health and welfare ffficer for Stockton on Tees Borough Council, discussed the legislation available to local authorities to tackle equine welfare and the increase of fly grazing on local authority land. He called for the microchipping of all equines, a robust passport system, and owner details to be kept up-to-date using a fit-for-purpose central equine database. He also suggested the introduction of fixed penalty notices for non-adherence.

Jeanette Allen, chair of the equine sector council steering group and chief executive of The Horse Trust, and Louise Kemble, chair of the British Horse Industry Confederation and chief executive of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, presented on the Equine Sector 2015 General Election Manifesto for the Horse. A key recommendation in the document is an update of the current horse passport system as a priority for improved health and welfare.

As a part of NEF’s new format a panel representing chief veterinary officers (CVOs) from the four U.K. countries debated their priorities on equine health and welfare in a changing world. Roly Owers, MRCVS, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, chaired the panel, which included Tim Morris, DVM, PhD of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England; Robert Huey, MVB, DVPH(MH), MRCVS, CVO for Northern Ireland; Sheila Voas, BVM&S, MRCVS, CVO for Scotland; and Jo Price, BVSc BSc MRCVS, from the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework. The consensus was for identification, traceability and individual national databases to feed into a central system, ideally encompassing all 28 European Union member states. Northern Ireland’s policy of registering the premises at which the horse is kept was also recognized as a valuable implementation tool.

“To make this work the sector needs to work with the government," Morris concluded. "It is very much in our sector’s hands to make sure we have a workable database.”

The first afternoon session, chaired by Pat Harris, MA, VetMB, PhD, Dipl. ECVCN, MRCVS, head of the WALTHAM Equine Studies Group, explored the training and professional development opportunities in further education in the U.K. Lisa Jarvis, animal health and welfare industry product manager at Lantra, and Beth Maloney, owner of an equine training centre and former assistant principal of a large further education college, outlined the current system and opened the discussion on whether we have ‘got the mix right’. The constructive debate that followed will provide valuable input for the British Equestrian Federation workshop on this key issue due to be held in November.

In brief topical spots Lynn Petersen, chief executive of the British Horse Society (BHS), outlined the importance of the BHS Accident Log to effect change and help make riding safer. Jane Nixon, director of equine development at the British Equestrian Federation, summarized the new British Breeders Network and its anticipated role in building a future for British breeding.

In the concluding session on reflections and projections in the horse industry Will Lambe, director of public affairs and policy at the British Horseracing Authority, reviewed the economic impact of racing which generates £3.45 billion in annual expenditure and provides direct, indirect and associated employment for some 85,000 people.

Claire Williams, executive director and secretary at the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), revealed some figures from the 2014-15 BETA National Equestrian Survey. According to the results equestrian expenditure stands at £4.3 billion (£3.8 billion in 2010-11), 2.7 million people have ridden in the past 12 months (3.5 million in 2010/11), 446 thousand people keep horses (451 thousand in 2010/11), and there are 944,000 horses in the U.K. (988,000 in 2010/11).

Andrew Finding, chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation, emphasized how important it is for the whole of the equine sector to help increase participation in equestrianism through Hoof, a valuable legacy of 2012.

The full proceedings can be downloaded at www.bef.co.uk on the National Equine Forum page. The 2016 National Equine Forum will be held on March 3 at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Westminster, London.

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