April 5, 2008

The BHS Scotland Riding School and Livery Yard Proprietors Conference proved to be a feast of information, inspiration and opportunity for delegates.

More than 45 attended the event held at the state-of-the-art Kingsbarn Equestrian Centre near Falkirk. Guests were treated to a medley of informative presentations interspersed with practical sessions.

The morning session included a talk by Dr Debbie Marsden who passed on many practical tips and simple reminders for reducing litigation in the running of an equine business, which has the risk activity of riding at its heart.

Mr George Balfour, a rare example of a trading standards officer who is a true horseman, was next to speak. He discussed the expanded role of trading standards towards equines now that the local authorities have to enforce the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. Topics covered included responsibilities surrounding welfare, passports and transport competency.

A tour of Kingsbarn, which has an impressive 165 stables, almost two acres of outdoor and 4000 square metres of indoor arena was enjoyed by all delegates.

After lunch a session on 'fun lessons' from Shonagh Steven, recipient of the 2007 Ann Balfour Kinnear Award, threw up safe ideas for enjoyment and competitiveness for the client from beginner upwards.

It was back to the lecture room in the afternoon for a very clear presentation on stable yard biosecurity from Fife practitioner Sam Duff MRCVS. Mr Duff covered every aspect of the benefits and challenges of biosecurity and encouraged a risk-assessed approach to averting the threat of disease by taking action. His basic message being: isolation, signage, and vaccination, worming, discouraging vermin and using your friendly veterinary service.

The final presentation was given by Mary Munro of SAC farm services who provided a comprehensive and whirlwind tour of the new SRDP rural funding opportunity for equine businesses.

BHS Riding School Inspector Rosie Fitz-George said: "From the perspective of a yard proprietor you could not fail to take something useful home from this day which covered a wide ranging set of themes.

"It never fails to impress me just how much laws can differ between Scotland and England. Overall there are many small ways that people can change their practices, and by doing so, not only improve equine welfare but also give themselves a business edge."