A packed auditorium of over 200 delegates, together with an international live stream audience of more than 1200 from around the world, enjoyed a day of knowledge sharing and animated debate at this year’s National Equine Forum, held in London last week.
Lord Gardiner opened proceedings withan update on Defra’s current horse-related priorities, including Brexit. Pamela Thompson of Defra then presented a closer look at the implications of Brexit and what it may mean for the horse owner.
Stewart Everett led a session on the Central Equine Database (CED) and the Digital Stable – a data checking and verification system that allows owners to manage their equine data, scheduled to be launched in early April.
The highly relevant equine health update saw Dr Richard Newton, from the Animal Health Trust, discussing learnings from the recent equine influenza outbreak. He also outlined the benefits of CED and the Digital Stable in bringing targeted disease messaging, vaccination record checking and pre-event registration to help halt the spread of disease. He concluded that vaccinations are key, but “we need to use them in a smarter way.”
Horse and rider fitness
The afternoon session commenced with a three-part practical and educational session on fitness and its direct bearing on performance, across the equestrian disciplines.
Dr David Marlin presented on cardiovascular fitness training and how it can be applied. He said: “The training methods we use generate a high level of injury, so we need to focus on this area to reduce lameness."
Dr Rachel Murray, senior orthopaedic advisor at the Animal Health Trust, focused on core stability and muscle development of the horse, and gave examples of regular stable exercises, groundwork and ridden exercises.
Physiotherapist Ashleigh Wallace rounded off the fitness session with a look at the rider, and how rider fitness can influence equine performance. Emphasising how “your posture can have a massive influence on how you transfer weight through the saddle.”
Stereotypic behaviour and learning
Dr Andrew Hemmings from the Royal Agricultural University gave a fascinating insight into Equine Stereotypic Behaviour. He explained feeding in relation to brain function and crib-biting, and the discovery that horses who perform weaving and crib-biting are easier to train as they are quicker learners, however crib-biters are also hard to un-teach learned behaviours.
Advances in farriery
The 2018 winner of the Sir Colin Spedding Award, Dr Simon Curtis – a practicing farrier in Newmarket, Suffolk – gave an overview of the fascinating advances in farriery during his career and beyond.
HRH The Princess Royal, president of the National Equine Forum, summarised the day and announced the 2019 winner of the Sir Colin Spedding Award as Gordon Wesley, in recognition of his longstanding dedication to many aspects of the equine sector, both at home and abroad.
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