NIVA hosts Ireland’s first Equine Welfare Symposium

NIVA hosts Ireland’s first Equine Welfare Symposium

More than 100 vets, paraprofessionals, equine industry leaders, horse-owners, academics and politicians gathered at the at the island of Ireland’s first Equine Welfare Symposium on February 22.

The event, hosted by the North of Ireland Veterinary Association, saw delegates from across the UK and Ireland gather for a packed afternoon of thought-provoking presentations from a variety of leading horse welfare experts. These included Dr David Marlin President UK National Equine Welfare Council; Dr Meta Osborne, vet, stud owner and MSc in Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law ; Mr Roly Owers OBE Vet and Chief Executive World Horse Welfare and Dr Jane Williams, Associate Professor Hartpury University)

The event acknowledged a need to engage the entire equestrian and veterinary community in considering the changing landscape of equine welfare, and to support NIVA in its vision to co-produce a consensus paper as a call for action to both the equestrian community and NI government around key priority areas.

Proceedings were opened by organiser Dr Esther Skelly-Smith, NIVA President and practising equine vet. She set the scene by describing the current situation in this part of an island which has been described as “the land of the horse”, with an estimated 34,000-plus horses in Northern Ireland alone.

Esther went on to highlight some recent strides in equine welfare, including the use of active turnout for horses at CAFRE and in racing yards, and the great work done by the Donkey sanctuary and organisations such as The British Horse Society.

The speakers’ presentations were wide-ranging and covered topics from the results of a recent public opinion survey (almost 20% of the general public won’t accept the continuing use of horses in sport under any circumstances, and twice as many more will only accept it if welfare issues are addressed) to research methods for studying physical, physiological and psychological stressors in equine athletes, and upcoming rule changes in equine sport.