War Horse Memorial had an armchair seat at this year’s virtual World Horse Welfare Conference which explored The horse-human partnership, asking what’s in it for the horses?
Guest speaker was the charity’s President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who in her closing address spoke of growing up with horses and the changing relationship between working horses and the people who need them. She posed the question of whether working animals and horses kept for purposes of sport and leisure feel any differently about their relationship with humans, highlighting the importance of balance in the #horsehumanpartnership and considered if there would be any horses left (even in the wild) if they were not considered companions by we humans. She noted that it’s vital for organisations to work with owners and their horses at the stage they’re at – once again emphasising how powerful education can be as a tool to improve horses’ welfare. and, importantly, that our partnership with horses needs to be a genuine one and we need to understand what that really means, despite the fact it’s not an easy thing to define.
Other speakers included Peter Thornber, of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association; Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Sheila Voas; Andrew McLean, a prolific author on the science and ethics of horse training; Zimbabwe’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Josphat Nyika and Caroline Nokes MP for Romsey and Southampton North who is a World Horse Welfare Trustee and former Chief Executive of the National Pony Society.
Horses and humans have a long and multi-faceted history together, stretching back in history, with horses being seen as food, a means of transportation, working animals, comrades-in-arms during war, sporting partners, companions and, increasingly, a type of therapy or simply animals that we choose to spend our leisure time with. The line-up of speakers explored this complex and evolving relationship and considered how much horses actually, or could, benefit from their partnership with people.
Roly Owers, Chief Executive told delegates that we humans believe that our relationship with horses is based on a partnership with huge benefits to humankind – but if this is a true partnership how much do our horses really benefit from it? And he asked: “More importantly, how do we ensure they receive the benefits they deserve? We might provide food, protection from harm and disease, veterinary treatment and perhaps even a job or degree of companionship, but is this all a horse needs for a good life?”
World Horse Welfare is one of War Horse Memorial’s chosen charities. It was founded in 1927 and is an international charity with a mission is to work with horses, horse owners, communities, organisations and governments to improve welfare standards and stamp out suffering in the UK and worldwide. It believes that horses and humans have evolved a unique partnership and that horses have an important role in society which is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. Whether working animals, family pets, equine athletes, conservation grazers or companions, horses contribute to our lives, cultures and economies. This partnership is right so long as people take full responsibility for their welfare. Registered charity numbers are 206658 and SC038384 (in Scotland). For more information check out the website worldhorsewelfare.org