Horse welfare heroes recognised for tireless determination and pioneering initiatives

  • Two people who have had a major impact on improving equine welfare have been named joint winners of the annual Sir Colin Spedding Award.

    Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) livestock and entries coordinator Amanda Stoddart-West and RSPCA case officer Kirsty Withnall were honoured at the National Equine Forum on 7 March.

    Mrs Stoddart-West was recognised for her “pioneering work to enhance equine wellbeing” and Ms Withnall for her “tireless determination” in bringing to justice those responsible for causing animals’ suffering.

    H&H has covered much of Mrs Stoddart-West’s work, including setting appropriate rider-to-horse weight ratios, raising participation age for foals and introducing welfare stewards.

    “In the event of any of the welfare advances being challenged, Amanda has remained firm in her application of the principles, and because of her efforts, these are now being widely adopted across other shows,” her citation reads.

    Mrs Stoddart-West said: “I was totally shocked to be told that I had been nominated, and incredibly honoured to be a joint winner of such a revered honour. There are great efforts going into ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare nationally, and this award is a reflection of all of those who are doing such great work in this area.

    “I couldn’t have achieved any of what I have without the support of my employers the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, and GYS vet Julian Rishworth who I have been very fortunate to work alongside for the last 21 years.

    “There have been times when we have been met with resistance to change but with the support of like-minded people within the industry, and thanks to my good friends and long-suffering husband and family, hopefully we have made a difference to welfare standards within the showing world.”

    Kirsty Withnall with forum president Princess Anne

    Ms Withnall has been lead officer in numerous large, complex, high-profile equine and multi-animal welfare cases. She “continues to show great tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals,” her citation read. “Most notably, she has been the linchpin in many large-scale operations, where coordination and cooperation with numerous agencies have been vital in securing safe and efficient rescue for equines and other animals. Her diligent collection and collation of evidential material has led to successful prosecutions and the reduction of future cruelty.”

    She said: “I am honoured and absolutely delighted to receive this extremely prestigious award. Through my 23 years working for the RSPCA, I know first-hand how rewarding but also extremely challenging the role can be, so it truly means a great deal to have my work recognised in this way.

    “I’ve been incredibly lucky to work alongside some outstanding colleagues at the RSPCA, but also with support from other agencies and organisations such as the police, veterinary teams, local authorities and of course members of the National Equine Welfare Council and I believe this award belongs to all of them too. Together we have achieved incredible results through our joint efforts to protect animal welfare and will for many years to come.”

    Anne Dicker with forum president Princess Anne

    Anne Dicker, managing partner of the Catherston Stud, was highly commended for her work in helping to unite the equine sector. She has contributed to advancing equine groom apprenticeships, training fire responders, developing digital equine ID policy, and research to further the principles of the happy equine athlete.

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