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Posted on December 8th, 2022

CAMBS: Professional dressage rider jailed for neglecting young competition horses

A Grand Prix level dressage rider was sentenced at court recently after he was found guilty last month of causing suffering to and neglecting five young horses who were in his care.

Sam Duckworth (DOB 06/07/1980) of Newmarket Road, Cambridgeshire – appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 6th December.

Duckworth was given an immediate 18 week custodial sentence after he was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to five young horses that were in his care.

The professional dressage rider was also given a lifetime ban from keeping all animals with no appeal for five years. He was also ordered to pay £68,860 in costs.

An 11 day trial concluded on Wednesday 9th November, where the court found Mr Duckworth guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to five young horses that were in his care – two bay fillies, a chestnut colt, a chestnut filly, and a bay colt – by failing to investigate and address the cause of the animals poor bodily condition and weight loss.

He was also found guilty of failing to take steps to meet the needs of the same five horses, after failing to provide an adequate parasitic control plan, required farriery, a suitable diet and failing to seek veterinary attention in respect of the animals’ poor condition.

After Duckworth was found guilty last week, RSPCA inspector and equine officer Suzi Smith said: “As an experienced horsewoman, it is very difficult for me to see any horses in such poor condition, especially for these youngsters who have been given such a poor start in life, when they should have been receiving professional care”.

“It’s very upsetting when owners and those caring for animals, don’t take the necessary steps to  meet the needs of the animals in their care, and suffering occurs as a result.  It’s even more frustrating when the person responsible has been provided with all the necessary advice from a veterinary surgeon and that advice is not followed”.

 In their witness statement, the veterinary surgeon who examined the horses summarised his findings by stating: ‘The body condition score of the five animals was unacceptably low and the animals were caused suffering. In my opinion, the cause of the poor body condition score was due to a combination of a heavy worm burden and malnutrition / starvation.’

 They also noted in their witness statement that ‘the poor body condition score had been brought to the owner’s attention in October 2020 and he allegedly followed veterinary advice, which included advice on worming and feeding.  If the advice had been followed, then a definite improvement in the body condition score would have been expected over this two month period.  Furthermore, if there was no improvement then further veterinary advice should have been sought, which did not appear to happen. On the basis of these timings, I conclude that on 12 January 2021 these animals have been caused suffering for at least six weeks.’


Posted on December 6th, 2022

Christmas on the Yard

Taking care of horses doesn’t stop for Christmas so Robinson Animal Healthcare caught up with their team of sponsored riders to find out what Christmas on the yard is like for them.

Sophie Wells

“The horses have Christmas Day off and I usually give my grooms the day off too. I’m up early to get the horses fed and mucked out and then they all go on the treadmill. Christmas Day is all about juggling horses and food!”








Bubby Upton

“It’s important for me to make the most of the Christmas period as it is the only time that both myself and the horses get to enjoy some down time. All the horses on the yard get Christmas Day off, so we do the yard jobs in the morning before I get to enjoy the rest of the day with my family.”





Louisa Milne Home

“This Christmas we have my brother and sister, plus their wife/husband and children coming up to stay with my Mum and Dad, so that will be lovely. On Christmas Day we normally do stockings first thing then go out and feed up, muck out, and put all the horses out in the field. On Christmas Day the horses usually go out with a bit of tinsel on their rugs.

“This means the horses can have a nice full day out in the field so we can enjoy Christmas, before bringing them back in at 3pm for a change of rug and feed and then we are all set for Christmas Dinner.  Finally we do a check on the horses just to wish them a last happy Christmas and give them their late feed.”





McNab Eventing

Event rider’s Kevin and Emma McNab will be celebrating Christmas in their native Australia but the team on the yard will be keeping the winter routine going over the festive period and will be enjoying a big team Christmas lunch.

Laura Goodall

“Christmas Day on the yard is usually a rushed one. We normally have an early start to get all the yard done and finished before starting to prepare for when all the family come around for Christmas lunch. If the weather permits the horses usually get a day off to chill in the field and an extra treat (usually carrots) in their dinner.”

Robinson Animal Healthcare has a wide range of products for all your first aid requirements including the market-leading Animalintex and the legendary Veterinary Gamgee.

For more information contact Robinson Animal Healthcare on 01909 735000 or visit www.robinsonhealthcare.com

Posted on December 5th, 2022

EVJ editorial underlines why it’s vital to revert to bi-annual flu boosters

As equine influenza (EI) vaccine supply returns to normal, following a significant shortage, and just at a time when the UK is seeing an increase in EI activity, epidemiology experts are advising that there is sound scientific evidence as to why bi-annual vaccination schedules should be promptly re-implemented. The Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) has published a special early view article reviewing the science behind the enhanced EI vaccination schedules, in particular the replacement of annual boosters with a mandatory bi-annual vaccination programme.

EI is a highly contagious respiratory disease which remains endemic in the horse populations across numerous countries and infection is characterised by rapid spread and significant morbidity in the immunologically naive. With the introduction of mandatory EI vaccination by most competitive equestrian disciplines after the early 1980s, the scale and number of outbreaks have in most years been relatively small. However, disease events such as those experienced in the UK in 1989, 2003 and most recently in 2019 have demonstrated EI’s epidemic potential, even in vaccinated horse populations.

In their article Equine influenza bi-annual boosters: what does the evidence tell us? Victoria Colgate and Richard Newton build on the work recently published by Fleur Whitlock and colleagues in; An epidemiological overview of the equine influenza epidemic in Great Britain during 2019. They discuss what has been learnt from previous outbreaks and explain the evidence from mathematical models to show why bi-annual boosters are beneficial.

Epidemiological data from previous natural EI outbreaks have repeatedly demonstrated the impermanent nature of the protection provided by vaccination and observational field studies repeatedly highlight the potential for 12-monthly boosters to leave a vulnerable immunity gap at both the individual animal and population level. Mathematical models of EI transmission confirm that six-monthly rather than annual EI booster vaccinations are preferable to establish and maintain effective population level immunity to EI.

Ideally vaccine strains should be updated in a timely manner to ensure inclusion of the most epidemiologically-relevant strains, however, this is a slow and expensive process for equine vaccine manufacturers. In the absence of updated vaccine strains, bi-annual vaccination is strongly recommended to help compensate for antigenic drift between vaccine and circulating EI viral strains.

“The equine industry must surely remain resolute and guided by scientific principles,” said the authors. “The clear evidence from experimental, epidemiological and mathematical modelling studies shows why we must encourage clients to revert to a schedule of bi-annual boosters.”

“We must also remind horse owners that animals already on six-monthly vaccination regimes were best positioned for the vaccine shortage with a built-in tolerance in their vaccination schedule; their levels of immunological protection would not be expected to decline to susceptible levels, even with a slight delay before being re-vaccinated.”

“Although the recent EI vaccine shortage has necessitated a temporary relaxation of competition vaccine schedules, we must now renew the message that six-monthly boosters are optimal and necessary,” said Professor Celia Marr, Editor of the EVJ.

The Editorial can be found at https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/evj.13898 and is free to view.

Two related articles can be found here: https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/evj.13874

Photo: Fiona Williams

Posted on December 5th, 2022

When does use become abuse with horses?

Society’s values are changing, animal welfare is becoming an ever-higher priority and some aspects of the horse/human relationship have recently come under the spotlight. Trying to identify and defining where use of horses becomes abuse were just some of the themes explored at World Horse Welfare’s 25th conference held at the Royal Geographical Society in London recently and broadcast virtually worldwide.   

Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare introduced a thought-provoking and fascinating series of talks by international speakers: “Society is increasingly suspicious of traditional uses of animals and, thanks to science, we know more especially about what horses need and how what we do impacts on them.” he said.

“Today our focus is on leading the debate on what can be done to establish an even stronger horse/human relationship, and a fairer partnership. This applies to all the horses we help – be they horses in need, sport and leisure horses or horses used in work and production.”

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, World Horse Welfare President and participant at all 25 of the charity’s conferences, summed up the event by highlighting the complexity of the topic, but also reminded the audience that horses and humans had been together for thousands of years, and horses have been bred during that time to exist with us, working together.

The first session illustrated the diverse range of uses that horses have around the world. Mark Wentein, Chair of the European Horse Network, began with an exploration of the roles of the more than seven million equids in Europe. He highlighted the Bruges horse cab service as an example where welfare of the horses has been central to the industry’s development. “Horses have a long tradition in working, but there hasn’t always been a good reputation on welfare, however, much has changed with new regulations and new ways of operating” he said. “Today there is a professional cab service for Bruges tourists. These are supervised by city and official vets and are advised by animal welfare groups.”

Tamara Tadich, Associate Professor at Universidad Austral de Chile examined working horses and their relationship with the many millions of people globally who rely on them. Despite many peoples’ assumptions, Tamara said: “Most working equid caretakers are aware of their equid’s needs. They try their best to keep their working animals in the best condition that they can. If they don’t have a horse, they cannot work. Most owners understand that they need an equid in good welfare to work and maintain their livelihood. And most consider their horses as part of the family so they don’t want their animals in bad condition and that is also something that we need to acknowledge.” She also pointed out that the welfare of working equids and their caretakers are interlinked and animal welfare cannot be considered on its own or from a single point of view. Tamara also pointed out that, despite not being explicitly identified in any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, working horses are integral to at least six of them.

Matt Brown, US five-star eventer, tackled an area that may be more familiar to many in the audience: training and riding horses for sport and leisure. He likened the current social licence movement in horse sport to the #MeToo movement: “Things that used to be common practice and done in a not-so-secret way, maybe behind closed doors or behind the barn are not acceptable anymore. Instead of trying to defend some of those common practices, we need to do better for the horses. We need to be willing to call out that behaviour when we see it”

After the morning break, two talks from outside the equestrian world gave a different perspective and proved food for thought. Lee Cain, Founder of Charlesbye Strategy and previously Director of Communications at No. 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, emphasised the importance of understanding what the wider public believes: “If you are going to change public opinion you need to understand other things to begin with. You need to use research, where are they on your particular issue and think critically, why do they think that?” Referring to social licence and equestrianism he said: “You can either shy away from these issues or turn these risks into opportunities.”

Claire Bessant, former CEO of International Cat Care then explored use versus abuse in a different species. With some species-specific differences there was a significant overlap in issues and perception and Claire pointed at the tendency to anthropomorphise animals: “People want to cuddle with their pets, even if their pets don’t want it. It’s not the cat’s choice to be a pet, it’s our choice. We need to be honest about what are cats’ needs and what are human needs”

A discussion panel consisting of Dr Sarah Coombs, Vet and World Horse Welfare Trustee; Dr Amber Batson, Vet; Professor Christine Middlemiss MRCVS, Chief Veterinary Officer; Bluebell Brown, Royal Veterinary College and Lee Mottershead, Senior Writer, Racing Post and chaired by Nick Powell, Sports Editor, Sky News considered a number of questions with wide-ranging discussions touching on all the topics raised during the morning’s talks. Bluebell Brown brought the discussions together by saying: “We need to come together and collaborate as an industry, but also listen to outside views as well and take these onboard and keep doing the research”

Summing up the conference, Roly Owers acknowledged that this is a complex topic and that there are no clear-cut answers: less black and white but more shades of grey. Traditional equestrian practices had been mentioned several times and Roly cautioned: “We shouldn’t always think that tradition is bad and new fads are good, it is not that simple…but we need to invest in the research and we do need to be open-minded, to challenge the status quo and where change needs to be made, we make it.”

World Horse Welfare would like to thank the headline sponsor of the Conference, The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust, and the event’s other supporters, the Horseracing Betting Levy Board and Equine Register for their pivotal involvement in helping make the Conference possible.


The conference was also broadcast with Spanish and French subtitles and the entire conference will be available HERE to watch at any time.