Student has a ball with zebras

A BSc Equine Sports Science student has been having a ball with Zebras at Blackpool Zoo. Mairi Aitken, a student at Brackenhurst College, chose to study zebra behaviour for her final year dissertation.

She gave the zoo’s zebras an Equiball — a plastic container twice the size of a football, which is filled with horse feed. The zebras were able to shake out the nuts by pushing the ball around.

Mairi says: “The idea was to promote natural foraging behaviour and to see if the Equiball made a difference. The results showed that the zebras would actively use the ball and their foraging behaviour did increase.”

The ball proved to be a very useful environmental enrichment device, ensuring the zebras spent less time inactive. Younger zebras played with it even when it was empty and the ball was such a success that it is still being used at the zoo.

Mairi now plans to travel to Kenya to work in an animal orphanage.

“I hope to gain more experience, plus this is a chance to study African wildlife and complete more extensive research on zebras in the wild. Hopefully I can help with the conservation of these amazing endangered animals as well as helping to enrich the lives of those in zoos,” says Mairi.

Equine degree course cancelled

The last-minute cancellation of an equine degree course has left 17 students facing the prospect of being without a university place this month.

The BA in Equestrian and Teaching Studies at Northumbria University – which was to run for the first time this year – was believed to be the only course of its kind in the UK, and provided one of the only equestrian degree options in the north-east.

Spokesman for the course, Jim Clark, says: “Unfortunately, the course didn’t complete the university’s validation process successfully and had to be cancelled. All students were contacted and were supported in trying to find alternative places.”

Mature student Amanda Convery, who had been accepted on to the course, told HHO: “The student loan papers were through, the course was full, funding from the LEA had been approved and I’d given up my job as a PA. You can imagine how devastated I was by the news. This had taken a year of my life to plan and all other equine degrees are out of my area.

“The letter we received from the university offered no comfort or real reason behind the withdrawal of the degree and I’m left confused and angry that it can be withdrawn as such a late stage.”

Fortunately, nearby Kirkley Hall College – who were partnering Northumbria University in the degree – were able to step in and offer alternative places for a number of applicants.

College principal Dr Capron, says: “We already run an HND in Equine Management and the students who contacted us were offered places.

“We were members of a consortium with Northumbria University. We are still interested in helping to run this degree or similar in the future and hope there is a way to move it forward.”

Training for racing lads

The British Horseracing Training Board (BHTB) is to launch two new qualifications for the horse industry at the headquarters of training organisation LANTRA at Stoneleigh on 10 September.

The Intermediate Certificate in Horse Care (ICHC) and the Advanced Certificate in Horse Care (ACHC) have been introduced to meet the requirements of the modern apprenticeship programmes.

The launch will include an introduction by BHTB chairman Rhydian Morgan-Jones; to reserve a place (tel: 01638 560743) or email info@bhtb.co.uk

Become a member

Membership of NAGS is free to all bona fide grooms and students. Benefits include: Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy, £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic, 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing, no P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order and eligibility for NAGS-only competitions and offers.

If you are interested in becoming a member, write to: NAGS, Room 2018, Kings Reach Tower, Stamford Street, London SE1 9LS (tel: 020 7261 6993), or e-mail: nags@ipcmedia.com

And remember, the club is open to all students, not just those studying for an equine qualification.

  • If you have any news or information you think would make a story for the NAGS weekly bulletin, please e-mail details to: kerry_bowness@ipcmedia.com
    The weekly online NAGS bulletin is brought to you in association with Blacup Training Group