Veterinary Care of the Horse

Code of Practice for Horse Welfare

A new Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids  has been published. It was collated in partnership between Defra and the British Horse Council and  sets out minimum standards that should be met by anyone caring for an equine in England.

The Code of Practice can be viewed and downloaded here:

The Code covers all aspects of physical well-being including; what constitutes a suitable environment for a horse, ensuring their nutritional needs are met, protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease, end of life planning and duty of care.  In addition, the Code also sets out requirements for ensuring that a horse’s behavioural and companionship needs are met.

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, Roly Owers, said:

“The publication of this updated Code of Practice is a significant step for equine welfare in England. Not only does the Code set out the minimum standards that constitute and define responsible ownership, but it provides a useful and easily accessible reference guide for horse owners and carers from all areas of the equine sector.

“Although it cannot be used to bring about a prosecution, this statutory Code is an important resource for enforcers and welfare charities which offers clear guidance and education as well as assisting Courts of Law to enforce welfare offences and hold irresponsible owners to account.

“The updated Code is similar to guidance in other countries which set out good practice in equine welfare and we look forward to progressing a European-wide version as part of the EU Animal Welfare Platform’s Equine Sub Group.”



Don’t break your vet…

Equine vets have one of the highest injury risks of all civilian professions. To help address this serious issue the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has produced a series of short videos, featuring vet Gemma Pearson MRCVS who is doing research on horse behaviour

The videos provide quick and simple ways of teaching horses to be quiet, relaxed and safe for injections, clipping, worming, examinations and other veterinary procedures.

Having met Gemma and seen more of her work I can only suggest you take time to watch and learn!

Links to the other videos are here.

Learning to stand still and be calmer

Head shy Horses

Calm clipping 

Barging horse – leading and safer loading


The future of Endurance

Dr Sarah Coombs will chair a new FEI committee about the future of  international Endurance riding.

The FEI Bureau has set up a Temporary Committee to urgently assess the issues currently affecting the sport of Endurance and carry out an in-depth review of the rules. The remit will identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its original roots of Endurance riding as opposed to Endurance racing, with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core, while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the sport.

The Temporary Committee will be chaired by Dr Sarah Coombs (GBR). She was formerly the British Endurance team vet, is a Trustee of the global equine charity World Horse Welfare and is also chair of its Veterinary Advisory Committee. She is joined by Dr Tim Parkin (GBR), who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s Global Endurance injuries Study (GEIS)

“We need to bring the discipline back to the principles of the FEI where welfare of the horse and horsemanship prevail”, FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “The Temporary Committee will conduct a thorough review of the discipline with the aim of getting back to real Endurance riding with the focus on horsemanship and the partnership between horse and human. “The sport has evolved and there needs to be a recognition of that, but the essence of the sport must remain the same. What we need are rules that place greater emphasis on completion of the event, rather than the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that is more and more threatening our sport. Read more

BEVA highlights welfare issue of tight nosebands


Australian research reported in the Guardian newspaper in May 2016 indicated that horses’ heart rates were raised and they struggled to chew when nosebands were fitted too tightly around their heads. In a follow up survey in the UK, Over 75% of members asked by the British Equine Vets Association (BEVA) considered there is a welfare issue with over-tight nosebands.

This is an ongoing issue in the equestrian world, but awareness is growing and the judges and stewards at big events are able to comment. The FEI is considering new guidelines for international horse sports and changes will apply to national governing bodies.

Wobbling in your learning

For Liz the relationship with Luca and unpicking his issues was a life lesson about riding and training horses.  His ‘resistance’ turned out to be response to Wobbler syndrome and looking back there were a number of other signs too.

Even low level pain can affect a horse’s behaviour, and these changes can be the first sign of a veterinary issue. This led Liz to awareness of how  common schooling techniques such as working in deep surfaces, excessive lunging, lack of road work and overuse of gadgets  can cause significant long term impacts. Understanding the bio-mechanics of horse and rider, and riding with softness and suppleness in mind are key. Allowing the horse time to develop is also a key philosophy.

Old fashioned approaches of ‘sorting an horse out’ and riding through mis-behaviour can bring short term results, but may not help your horse stay sound or develop trust in the longer term. After all, horses simply don’t spend time plotting how to evade work and annoy the rider…