World Horse Welfare Annual Conference 2018

Today in London the ‘Changing Times’ themed World Horse Welfare Charity convened for it’s Annual Conference and it was great to see Technology discussed so prominently in the opening and closing keynote presentations:


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22mins Technology: we are seeing mind boggling change on a daily basis, be it in the Veterinary Surgery, in our cars, on our phones or the wireless signals we now use daily. Veterinary Science moves ahead with lightening speed especially with diagnostics. However we must always remain true to our ethos and our values and question whether we are investing as much thought into the prevention of suffering as opposed to the cause (I think he meant treatment) and just because a Vet can intervene does not mean that they should and we must always strive for quality over quantity of life.  Similarly owners seeking advice from a Vet on a whole host of welfare topics can feel confident they were doing what was right. In the digital age more owners than ever before are turning to Dr Google and discussion forums reviving at best conflicting opinions and at worst a bad steer that jeopardises their animals life. And horses for sale which used to require animals to be seen are increasingly being sold, traded and even given away online and we’ll hear more about that this afternoon. But the use of technology does hold great promise if we can use it well. Case in point is identification, there is the potential to link every horse to an owner to ensure accountability, to hold their DNA in a database to trace their movements to prevent unscrupulous trading and to help manage disease outbreaks. But these opportunities largely remain elusive. We must continue to work tirelessly to change this…

Roly Owers, CEO, World Horse Welfare

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3hrs49mins looking at the changes particularly with respect to Technology, Communications, Transport, Medicine, Genetics, the Social Values and Expectations, all of that has changed bit by bit. But the technology and the communications have made the dissemination of all those changes much quicker without necessarily having the knowledge to go with it. I have been hugely struck by the concept about information and technology: is all information knowledge? please discusss, not yet…  But knowledge and wisdom, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in your fruit salad. All of you will have some understanding of where those misconnections come from and the wisdom you would’ve liked to have seen applied to the knowledge you gained and that is perhaps the seduction of the internet. All of that knowledge is out there but it isn’t always connected to wisdom and for that you need some connection with experience. The farriers, the Vets, those who have long term experience are the ones who are able to make up the difference between the knowledge and the wisdom…

…time is key for training professionals and it’s demanding particularly as the knowledge base increases all the time but nobody starts with that knowledge so you just add it to the list of knowledge that you have to acquire. Having the time to do so and knowing how to use the technology to reduce the number of options that you then have to consider, that balance of time and what technology can offer may be crucial. The art of the possible isn’t always necessary and Technology as we all know will have some aspects that really work in some situations and there will be other aspects that other people will think is hugely attractive but absolutely pointless and somehow you’ve got to work out where they are and which bits will work for you and that takes a bit longer to work out. Understanding where your time is absolutely paramount and where technology can help you make that time more worthwhile applies to all professions wherever they are and all individuals whatever they’re doing. The only thing you can argue about animals and particularly horses in timescales is when you feed them and the hours of daylight which have a bigger impact on their lives than they do on us although to some extent our ability to use electricity light can falsify that. But that is all part of that process of understanding how change is of value but not all change is neccesarily progress. Now I had an interesting conversation with a surgeon on the materials used on hip replacement joints and how they should have the same load bearing capacity as bone because of course bone requires exercise load bearing to make it grow. Now he wasn’t a horseman but it was at one of those moments where I said ‘is that why the old boys used to say six weeks walking on the road before you do anything’. Now I had no business to ask him and there was a pause for thought and he said yes that makes sense because that helps the bone to start growing again and if they’ve been living in a field or a stable for too long that makes perfectly good sense as a way to encourage the bone to start to grow again. Observation, evidence, what did the old boys know that made them think that was an appropriate form of behaviour. Now we have the evidence to back it up because we can measure the bone growth but sometimes they were right the first time. and given how long horses have been around and been used for some of that information remains just as valuable but we’re only now getting to the stage where we can we apply that evidence base to it”

HRH Princess Royal (President, World Horse Welfare)


9:45am – Conference opened by World Horse Welfare Chairman Michael Baines

10:00am – World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers gives his view on Changing Times

10:10am – Why we need to help people if we want to help horses: Utam Kaphle, Executive Director of Animal Nepal

10:25am – Equestrian sport: the good, the bad and the ugly – and where next? Richard Davison, former Olympic dressage rider and World Horse Welfare Trustee

10:40am – What is the deal with these gypsy cobs? Andrea Betteridge, Founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association

10:55am – Q&A – see above to find out how to get involved

11:50am – Seismic shifts? A perspective on Brexit – Tim Collins CBE

12:00pm – Charities, trust and the broad horizon ahead: Jo Saxton, Nfp Synergy

12:10pm – Q&A – see above to find out how to get involved

12:20pm – Discussion Panel: An embarrassment of vets on ‘changing times’

Julian Rishworth, Ebony Escalona, Ben Mayes, Gemma Pearson and Sarah Coombs

Chaired by Nick Powell, Sky News Sports Editor, the discussion panel will focus on a number of key topics as outlined below. See above to find out how you can get involved.

  • The Great Yorkshire Show has adopted a relatively strict policy with regards to rider weight.  How serious an issue is it where riders are mismatched to their mounts?
  • Despite the digital revolution owners still place great trust in their vet.  Given the pivotal role vets play in enhancing equine health and welfare how can they improve communication with their clients?
  • Equine welfare charities have seen a surge in cases involving hard to reach communities over the past few years.  What more could vets be doing to meet this growing challenge?
  • Our understanding of equine behaviour has been transformed over the past few years.  Do artificial aids such as whips and spurs have a place in modern horsemanship?

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ChangingTimes





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