A plan drawn up to safeguard the welfare of all equines in the UK was launched by minister for the horse Barry Gardiner two weeks ago.

Addressing the National Equine Forum in London on 22 March, Mr Gardiner said the Equine Health and Welfare Strategy would work with the Animal Welfare Act to “up the industry’s focus on welfare”.

But his comments came just weeks after the government disappointed welfare groups by announcing that the licensing of livery yards under the Animal Welfare Act will not be looked at until at least 2009 (news, 8 March).

Mr Gardiner denied there was a contradiction between his comments at the forum and the decision to put livery yard licensing on hold.

He told H&H: “We remain committed to addressing this issue [the licensing of livery yards] and I believe the strategy will deliver real benefits for the industry and the welfare of horses.”

But National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) vice president Lesley Barwise Munro said she believed there needed to be more “joined-up” thinking from the government.

“Two separate teams worked on the strategy and the Animal Welfare Act and I don’t think they communicated that much,” she said. “But I do think the penny is beginning to drop.”

The strategy is designed to improve the health and welfare of all equines in the UK and provide guidance and support to owners.

It was drawn up by a working group led by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) in response to the 2004 publication of the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy for Great Britain.

The strategy has eight aims — from reviewing disease surveillance methods to improving the education of those who work with horses — and will be implemented over the next 10 years.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (5 April, ’07)