Working together for better equine welfare

RSPCA and World Horse Welfare staff at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Working together for better equine welfare

We recently hosted a training day in collaboration with World Horse Welfare and the RSPCA for RSPCA animal rescue officers. The day was a chance for animal rescue officers to get hands-on experience of welfare issues in horses and ponies and meet other animal welfare professionals.

The training was led by Jon Phipps from World Horse Welfare and Suzy Hannaby from the RSPCA with support from The Mare and Foal Sanctuary Welfare Outreach and Advice Manager, Rebecca Sherrell and Welfare Advisor, Leah Brock.

Suzy Hannaby, Deputy Chief Inspector for Devon and Cornwall RSPCA, explained why the day was so important: “Our three organisations have worked together a lot over the years. Collaboration is so important in the South West as we have such a large area to cover. Our animal rescue officers really benefit from specific equine training as there are so many horses and ponies in Devon and Cornwall. The training gives our officers the confidence they need to handle complex equine cases.”

Training covered a wide range of topics from how to identify common health problems to how to safely approach and interact with equines in the field.

Betty Burns, RSPCA Animal Rescue Officer, shared her thoughts on the day: “Hands-on training is vital for us especially with larger animals like horses and ponies. It’s so valuable to have something physically shown to you. It helps you to feel confident in the field. It’s also essential to meet people and make connections so you know who can call on in a difficult situation.”

Animal welfare is facing a challenging time due in large part to the cost-of-living crisis.  Owners are struggling and animals, including horses, are suffering as a result. We reported 194 welfare visits in 2022 involving 568 equines. Sanctuary places are also at capacity. We were approached for sanctuary spaces for 89 equines last year but were only able to offer spaces to 30.

Jon Phipps, Deputy Chief Field Officer at World Horse Welfare, added: “We’re grateful to The Mare and Foal Sanctuary for hosting this training day. Collaborative working is so important. By pooling our expertise and manpower we can greatly improve our reach and effectiveness when it comes to equine welfare. Sadly, the South West has seen a rise in equine welfare cases over the last year. Our fear is that the perfect storm created by the drought and cost-of-living crisis will only increase the workload of already stretched teams in all organisations.”

Syra Bowden, Head of Welfare for The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, said: “We are delighted to have been able to host this training day. We know just how important practical skills are when it comes to equine welfare. It’s not just about being able to spot a problem, but also knowing how to handle the horse or pony and communicate meaningfully with their owner. The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is very proud to have such a good working relationship with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. When we work together, we really can make a huge difference to the lives of horses and ponies.”

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