2 May 1997

Horse industry at risk through staff failings

"RIDING schools are the engine that drives the whole industry," said Duncan Brown of the Association of British Riding Schools, one of the speakers at the 1997 National Equine Forum.

Mr Brown spoke of the difficulty in getting the right people to teach newcomers to the sport, people who understood their aspirations and their fears and kept their custom. He called for a full examination of the impact college equine departments make on the horse industry and the setting up of a national training centre.

He would like to see all who wanted to make careers in the equine industry get training up to NVQ Level 2 within the industry and then go on to a national centre to complete their studies.

The unified business rate and the classification of stable manure as industrial waste were adding to riding school overheads, he pointed out, while regulations intended to improve safety were not only making the schools job harder but resulting in the production of less competent riders.

It was no longer acceptable to remount a fallen rider as quickly as possible, thereby restoring confidence. Checks and inquiries had now to be carried out first while traditional exercises that involved risks had to be cut out of the curriculum. At the same time proprietors lived with a fear of litigation and spiralling public liability premiums.

Horse charities

The equestrian knowledge and capabilities of those setting up horse rescue charities is not a matter which the Charity Commissioners have to take into account. This has resulted in a proliferation of charities which ultimately needed rescuing themselves and caused suffering to the animals in their care simply through neglect and ignorance.

This situation has long been a matter of concern. Now the National Equine Welfare Council on which leading equine charities are represented, has launched a code of practice to help both the Charity Commissioners and those planning to set up rescue schemes. Copies are available from the British Horse Society.

Young persons safety

There are more than 800 centres providing activities for young people under the age of 18 who are unaccompanied by parents or guardians and all come within the scope of the Activities Centre Young Persons Safety Act 1995. They need to be licensed by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and should apply without delay. Only a dozen have been licensed so far and the transition period ends Sept 30, 1997. These activities include trekking on horseback over moorland.

Sarcoids

"I shoot horses every week for a cosmetic disease," said Dr Derek Knottenbelt of Liverpool University, who has been studying sarcoids for 25 years. These are skin cancers, he says and there are half a dozen kinds in the UK. There is no effective treatment for them and incidences are increasing rapidly. They now affect 8% of the equine population, he says, and are spread by flies. In fact the fly is the greatest cosmetic surgeon, he claims, able to transplant single cells.

Ann Rogers