I attended the meeting of the National Equine Welfare Council (or NEWC). The umbrella organisation of all the best equine welfare organisations in the UK, including the Equine Behaviour and Training Association (EBTA) who I was very proud to represent:
From hosts HAPPA: generous yard tour, great kids education area, gorgeous indoor school. Stunning rescue of Arabian horses from chronic, horrific squalor and confinement that resulted in one of the horses actually reabsorbing his own pedal bone such was chronic malnutrition, laminitis and no hoof care.
HAPPA's ex-police officer welfare officer collaborated with World Horse Welfare officer and RSPCA inspectorate to collect and record all the evidence to ensure smooth procedure to save these distressed horses AND correct procedures all the way to court, prosecution and the appeal by the defendant that followed. Animal welfare offences are a criminal act - not just by our moral standards but also in the eye of the law.
It is absolutely essential to assess each welfare complaint carefully and have robust evidence. The vet in this case continued the presentation and showed us just how robust her process is. Recording and measuring health, behaviour and welfare to present to the court for their consideration and verdict, as well as informing HAPPA on how to care for the survivors - one of whom I was able to meet on the yard tour.
World Horse Welfare are another excellent organisation represented under the NEWC umbrella. One of their field officers also shared a case. Over 100 horses near to starving to death and a dark shed full of stallions, each confined to single stable - solid wall from floor to ceiling. They worked with the owners in this case to remove the horses. The owners, given their own circumstances are highly unlikely to have horses again - so prosecution was unnecessary.
My highlight from this presentation was how WHW moved the horses, working with the owners to handle them as carefully as they could.
I then caught up with Mark Kennedy from the science dept of the RSPCA. He shared with me his new leaflets on reading horse behaviour, with beautifully and clearly drawn caricatures to help highlight the key facial expressions: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/horses/behaviour/bodylanguage
Learning all these very sobering stories, the many ways in which our beloved equines can be so badly wronged, I was so immensely grateful to see the fabulous Horse Trust present their equally fabulous poster on their Force Free Training of a number of cobs from another large scale rescue from yet more horrific circumstances of over crowding and filthy conditions.
For the last 8 to 9 months I have been working with the Horse Trust's dedicated equine training team - serious horse training ninjas! We have broken down all training requirements for these fearful, barely handed horses with additional emotional difficulties from the squalid conditions they were pulled from via a massive colbaoration of NEWC member organisations, and paired them up with desirable behaviours and rewarding outcomes:
We have paired the most diluted versions of fear provoking procedures and paired them with fibre pencils so the cobs could actually trust and believe they were safe.
We trained start button behaviours to give the cobs control over the processes.
Above all, we carefully monitored body language to promote full, happy social engagement as much as possible, to promote great relationships between the cobs and their trainers, and to prevent overwhelming these big but fragile creatures with more stress.
Massive round of applause to the crack team at the Horse Trust for truly being 21st Century guardians of the very best in equine welfare. And to the collective that NEWC provides an umbrella for, for pushing forwards with collaborative working to help equines.