The Showing Council considers setting up independent ombudsman

  • Welfare and conduct were on the agenda at The Showing Council’s annual general meeting – as a new chair was elected.

    Outgoing chairman David Ingle led the “welfare-focused” meeting, during which council veterinary representative Jane Nixon was elected as his replacement. With World Horse Welfare deputy CEO Tony Tyler and British Horse Society (BHS) welfare field officer Cathy Hyde among guests, it was agreed to form a working group to progress the council’s welfare policy and define areas “with more clarity”.

    Mr Ingle, who stepped down after more than eight years with the council, told H&H some key areas the group will consider include the amount of travelling horses do, animals behind the vertical, trimming of whiskers, adults riding ponies, and people qualifying for finals without appropriate experience.

    “The welfare policy took a couple of years to come together, but now we’re at a point where we can formalise it and start to really solidify the discussions and get proper help to know what we’re going to do,” he said. “Jane is ideally placed as the next chair to do that.”

    Tony Tyler said World Horse Welfare welcomes the working group.

    “Involving organisations like us and the BHS is positive. The initial draft documents seem encouraging and we look forward to working on a wide range of issues,” he said.

    Another item discussed was setting up an ethics and codes of conduct independent group to take an ombudsman-type approach to concerns around fair play in showing.

    “We’ve received concerns about inappropriate behaviours, from judges to competitors to board members – there’s no area that’s exempt,” said Mr Ingle. “That’s where it gets tricky because some people are frightened to complain and they’re telling us they feel if they do, they’ll never win another class. At least we can look at it independently, look at the evidence and if there is a problem we can go to the society.

    “Nobody should be discriminated against because they’re trying to do the right thing. We’re not a governing body, but we’re there to listen and help where we can and I think we’ve been very successful at that. Showing has got nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking an independent view of the field of fair play.”

    Dr Nixon told H&H The Showing Council needs to “stand back and take a very broad view” of where the sport is going for the benefit of horses and humans.

    “Showing is a sport and it’s got to be fun. For some people it’s their business but for the majority, it’s their relaxation,” she said. “It’s very important people enjoy it but to enjoy it, we must have horse welfare at the top of our priorities.

    “The issues that are important are social licence, biosecurity and, importantly, collaboration and I look forward to working with member bodies and British Equestrian to achieve this.”

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