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A grass-roots, preventive approach to sustainable equine welfare

A study has revealed that whilst pony club horses are much-loved members of the family, their health and wellbeing does not always reflect this. The fact that veterinarians are rarely consulted for health advice was a major concern, as was the clear lack of an evidence-based approach to pony nutrition, internal parasite control, hoof care and dental care, as well as regular vaccination. Instead, most ponies are managed by trial and error.

Pony club members from rural New South Wales and metropolitan Queensland began asking for information on a variety of health-related topics and admitted this information is often difficult to source. Furthermore, misbehaviour was also a very prominent cause of poor performance in pony club mounts.

The Best and Fairest Horsemanship Challenge has been designed to directly address these issues. Through the use of self-guided topics on horse health, welfare and behaviour, packaged specifically for riders aged 12 and above, its long-term objective is to assist young horse owners in sourcing evidence-based information for their horses and ponies.

By providing information, practical exercises and quizzes, culminating in a prize for the ‘best and fairest’, the Best and Fairest Horsemanship Challenge aims to raise awareness of and improve horse health, welfare and behaviour throughout Australia. The Best and Fairest Horsemanship Challenge will rollout across the country, following a successful pilot project that is currently underway.

Several volunteer pony club members are currently trialing the Best and Fairest Horsemanship Challenge with the opportunity to provide feedback prior to its national launch. The Pony Club Association of Australia, the Australian Equine Veterinary Association and Equine Dental Vets have been invited to participate.

If you or your club would like to participate or would like to find out more, please contact Sarah Hartley by email at sar86h@me.com.