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NEF Shines Spotlight On Cooperation, Community And Courage Within The Sector

1 month ago

15th March, 2024 12h03


The National Equine Forum (NEF), held in London earlier this month, embraced the importance of “cooperation, community and courage” to maintain the strength and integrity of the sector, as summarised by the NEF Vice Chair Dr Pat Harris. 

Presentations covered a wide variety of topics, showcasing how the equine industry is continuing to step up to the changes and challenges it faces. Topics included Defra’s thoughts, an update on the Manifesto for the Horse and progress on the licensing of equestrian premises in Scotland. How the sector can cooperate on environmental sustainability and land management was explored and the benefits of a community approach to accessibility and inclusion discussed. From an equine health care perspective, the success of a collaborative approach showed how teamwork can enhance patient outcomes and an update on the donkey skins trade was provided.

Livestreaming gave the event a worldwide reach, with virtual delegates from New Zealand, Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and the United States, as well as the UK, while royalty, governmental, veterinary, educational, charitable and equestrian association representatives enjoyed face-to-face participation.

Before presentations began, Convener Dr Georgina Crossman provided a tribute to Prof R.H. Graham Suggett OBE, joint founder of the NEF who sadly passed away on 7th November 2023.

The equine industry in a changing world

The Defra view

Chaired by National Equine Forum Organising Committee Member Roly Owers, CEO of World Horse Welfare, the session commenced with an industry overview, virtually, from The Lord Douglas-Miller, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Biosecurity, Animal Health and Welfare), Defra. He discussed progress on the Livestock Exports Bill and the Government’s work with the British Horse Council to get equine identification and traceability onto the home straight, stating that we need a system that works without threatening what is already in place. 


Manifesto for the Horse

David Mountford, chair of the British Horse Council presented the Manifesto for the Horse, a pre-General Election summary document explaining why the British horse sector is important to Government and how Government can enable the sector to flourish. He highlighted the size of the equine sector pointing out that 3.2m voters are riders, 250,000 people are employed within the industry and that it is the second-largest rural employer and an inclusive physical activity linking urban and rural communities. He concluded that “we want government to open some doors for us to help us achieve our objectives.” The Manifesto for the Horse can be viewed here:

Consultation on licensing equestrian premises in Scotland

Andrew Voas, Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare, Scottish Government explained that animal health and welfare are devolved to the Scottish parliament. He outlined the current consultation on licensing activities involving animals in Scotland and how the licensing of equestrian premises could be of significant benefit to equine welfare.

Topical slots

The impact of National Minimum Wage rises

Ali Dane, Proprietor of Hurston Dressage and Eventing provided practical insight into the effects of the recent rise in the National Minimum Wage on equestrian businesses. She confirmed that one of the largest direct costs was wages and that the new top bracket rate would have a huge impact on businesses such as hers. She suggested that the industry needs to adapt, modernise and professionalise, to run a compliant, profitable business. The solution is better business management and valuing our people and their values more. “Balancing human welfare, horse welfare and profit is a difficult thing, but it can be done,” she said. 

Paris 2024 – Olympic and Paralympic update

Jim Eyre, Chief Executive, British Equestrian (BEF) and Helen Nicholls, Performance Director, BEF spoke about preparations for Paris 2024. Jim Eyre said that the venue of the Palace of Versailles provides a great platform “where our industry can cut through the noise of other international sports.” He said historically our teams had done really well and set the bar high and that we have some very talented riders, great horses and passionate owners.

Session Chair Beth Maloney, Organising Committee Member, NEF and Proprietor of Thurleigh Equestrian Centre said: “Both presentations have highlighted that success comes from having a clear vision, forward planning and following good working practices within the industry.”


Environmental sustainability and land management 

In this session Chair Ruth Dancer, Director, White Griffin, spoke about environmental sustainability developments within the equine sector such as British Equestrian’s new resources which include an equine carbon calculator. She said that collaboration, learning from other industries and sharing best practices will help us deliver improved sustainability in the industry. 

Simon Cox, Trustee, Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA) and Sarah Wynn, Managing Director – Climate Change & Sustainability, RSK ADAS Ltd, outlined the climate impact of UK stud farms and explained the TBA’s new carbon calculator tool for the racing industry.

Denis Duggan, Chief Executive Officer, Horse Sport Ireland spoke about a framework for environmental collaboration, referring to an Irish saying “there’s no strength without unity.”

Victoria Murrell, Equine Health and Welfare Manager, TBA joined the panel for questions after the presentations.

Equine health care team 

Chaired by Jonathan Statham, Chair, Animal Health and Welfare Board of England, this session looked at the benefits of a team approach by vets, vet nurses and allied professionals to provide optimal health care outcomes for horses. Lucy Grieve, Veterinary Projects Officer, British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and Marie Rippingale, Chair of the BEVA Equine Nurse Committee explained, with the use of a case study horse, how chances of success are maximised by choosing the right people in the team and working together with trust and integrity. This includes the owner as the conduit for the flow of information across the team. 

Equine health updates

Ian Cawsey, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, The Donkey Sanctuary, reported on the collaborative approach of the International Coalition for Working Equids that had resulted in African leaders opting to ban the donkey skin trade. He said with “engagement, collaboration and persistence we have made great progress.” Session Chair Dr Pat Harris provided an update on the CANTER initiative (Controlling ANTiparasitic resistance in Equines Responsibly), which was launched at NEF in 2023 with the aim of combating wormer resistance.

Industry accessibility

Beverley Simms, Special Trustee, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, The British Horse Society (BHS), took the chair to explore aspects of accessibility, diversity, inclusion and belonging within the sector. 

Jane Cooper, Managing Director, Access and Inclusion UK, used an enlightening interactive session to highlight the scale of the disability sector (7%) and the multiple benefits of interaction with horses. She emphasised the importance of good accessibility to equestrian spaces, in both physical and written forms, together with quiet spaces, sensory stories and warm welcomes. 

Mandana Mehran Pour, Head of Participation and Development, BEF, highlighted the outcomes of a 2022 'Horses for All' research project by the BEF to investigate inclusion and diversity in the equine sector. She informed the audience that equestrian sports are the 4th most popular female sport and the 7th most popular disability sport with 15,100 disabled children riding once a week or more. The mission of the resulting #HorsesForAll strategy is “to create a culture of everyday inclusion at every level, in everything we do, and giving every individual, regardless of background, the opportunity to thrive”.

Rebecca Cogswell, Director of Marketing, Communications and Fundraising, BHS, provided an audience insight into why it matters to make everyone welcome. She reported that the Changing Lives Through Horses programme has already benefited more than 1000 students, summarising that “the horse human bond is like no other and we see it changing peoples’ lives on a daily basis.”

Georgina Urwin, Director, Summerfield Stables and Eleanor Spelman, Chairman, Solihull Riding Club, gave inspiring practical insights on pathways to develop belonging in the equestrian sector. They explained how their collaboration with each other brings greater strength, expanded offerings for riders and increased reach. “We are trying to show the way and lead by example and for others to take inspiration and start their own initiatives,” they said.

Memorial lecture: The Great Yorkshire Show – advancing equine wellbeing

The Memorial Lecture saw Amanda Stoddart-West from The Great Yorkshire Show interviewed by Jan Rogers, Organising Committee Member, NEF, Director of Research and Policy, The Horse Trust and joined by Lucy Grieve, Veterinary Projects Officer, BEVA. Amanda explained her achievement in passing and enforcing the 20% rider weight rule at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2016, the introduction of welfare stewards and the importance of continued collaboration with vets to improve horse and rider harmony and equine welfare at shows. 

The Sir Colin Spedding Award

Two joint winners of the Sir Colin Spedding Award were announced and one highly commended: Kirsty Withnall was recognised for her tireless determination as an RSPCA Case Officer, in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Amanda Stoddart-West was acknowledged for her pioneering work to enhance equine wellbeing at the Great Yorkshire Show. In addition, Anne Dicker, Managing Partner of the Catherston Stud, was highly commended as an Award finalist for her work in helping to unite the equine sector. The Awards were presented by HRH The Princess Royal.

The event’s President, HRH The Princess Royal, provided a closing address. Dr Pat Harris, NEF Vice Chair, Mars Horsecare UK, formally closed the event with thanks to all committee members, sponsors, corporate friends and friends for enabling it to happen.

“At this important time of change and progression in the equine industry, our presenters today have given us a real insight into the advantages of cooperation, community and courage in many different contexts,” summarised NEF Vice Chair Dr Pat Harris. “With the ultimate sporting highlight of Paris 2024 fast approaching, we have much to look forward to this year, in bringing the excellence of UK equestrianism to the world stage. 

“We are grateful to everyone who has helped to make this year’s NEF such a great success, from presenters, to organisers, to sponsors, friends and delegates, we couldn’t do it without you.”

The NEF replay is available until Friday 5 April 2024, free to all those who were registered for either the face-to-face event or the live streaming, and available for £20 for those who want to watch for the first time. 

The direct link for the replay on Eventbrite can be found here:

Visit for further information.


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