Opinion

Equine welfare is set to remain in the headlines as we head into 2018, and quite rightly so. Perhaps the question that needs to be asked this year is: “Who is responsible?”

The obvious answer is that we all are, every day. Our horses’ welfare should be instinctive and we should be ever vigilant.

As I work hard on my riding, asking more from myself and my horses in terms of suppleness and activity — and instilling the same in the training of other riders, their horses and trainers — my mind is on anything but welfare as I puff away. Instead of a conscious thing, it should be a common thread in the background.

One of my students made me pause for thought the other day. Asked why he wanted to sit his British Horse Society (BHS) exams, he said: “I want to help horses.” And indeed, if he understands more, he can achieve more… Yet I have my BHS Fellowship, I thought, and how has that helped me on the welfare front?

The BHS is a charitable institution with welfare at its heart. But who defends hyperflexed horses? Who fights for looser nosebands? Who campaigns for the abolition of the Big Lick, which afflicts many Tennessee walking horses? Or the dark world of pregnant mares in hormone farming?

Horse & Hound raises awareness of these welfare issues frequently and bravely. Who can forget news editor Eleanor Jones’ report after accompanying World Horse Welfare to see the dreadful conditions in which horses are transported to slaughter?

But how does all this affect the average dressage rider’s relatively cosy world? Well, folks, these practices will only be stopped under relentless pressure. So let’s all ask our governing bodies to DO something — anything — and let’s ask more often and louder.

Instead of infighting and social media side-swiping, let’s get behind issues that really matter.

The achievers of tomorrow

I’m an ex-Pony Club mum, so come school holidays, I sympathise with having to sacrifice one’s own riding to become groom/trainer/psychologist/physio/cook and chief bottle-washer to one’s offspring.

But how much should parents help their children? And to what extent should children be allowed to get it wrong? Surely it’s better that the pony has huge, untidy plaits because the child has tried to plait itself, rather than wonderfully neat plaits done by a parent or groom while the child plays on its phone?

I much prefer a child being hands-on, not off. And I explode when they can’t alter their own stirrups during a rally. Let’s work at this, so our children are more independent this year. Practical children are the doers and achievers of tomorrow.

Snookered on footwear issue

Oh yes, Ronnie O’Sullivan, you’ve persuaded snooker to allow the wearing of trainers in cases of players’ foot and leg problems… So, BHS, please accept mine on similar grounds.

Since my daughter Pippa bought me the best pair, I’m walking so much sounder. And if Michael Klimke can teach in trainers at the BD National Convention, well, that’s good enough for me. Maybe the powers-that-be will be snookered on this one…?

My New Year’s resolution is to improve; one is never too old and I have let myself slip. I wish you a happy and successful 2018.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 January