Equine welfare and “social licence” focus of world-first conference


Equine behaviour and welfare experts are getting together in Australia early next year for a world-first cross-sector racing and equestrian professional development event.

The main topics at the two-day conference will include the development of the understanding of welfare assessment, and social licence to operate.

Keynote speaker for the event hosted by Horse SA in Hahndorf, South Australia, on February 13-14 is world-renowned animal welfare scientist Professor Emeritus David Mellor, of Massey University in New Zealand.

Professor David Mellor, of Massey University
Professor David Mellor

Mellor is one of only nine scientists in the world to receive the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare medal, which recognises the exceptional achievements of an individual scientist who has made fundamental contributions to the advancement of animal welfare science over several years.

Mellor led the development of the Five Domains model of animal welfare – a model that covers all aspects of animal welfare including nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and the animal’s mental state, both negative and positive. It has recently been adopted as a key element of the Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare strategies around the world.

“This event provides a constructive exercise in discovering positive aspects of sport horse welfare,” Mellor said.

The Five Domains Model of Animal Welfare.
The Five Domains Model of Animal Welfare.

“We look at how to apply the Five Domains Model to help understanding of welfare, raise awareness of when welfare is positive or could be improved, and as a tool to evaluate horse welfare plans.”

Mellor will also present on equine welfare during exercise: “Do we have a ‘bit’ of a problem”?

The event will be opened via Skype by World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers.

Dr Andrew McLean, an equine behaviour specialist who engages with national equestrian federations throughout the world, will discuss the international adoption of evidence based training, and Martin Burns, of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, will discuss advocating for and implementing continuous improvement to welfare programs.

Dr Andrew McLean
Dr Andrew McLean

The target audience is executive committee members, staff or volunteers involved in horse sport organisations or University and Registered Training Organisations delivering horse industry programs.

“This is an engagement event, where delegates can look into what is working well within their sport through the lens of the Five Domains Animal Welfare Assessment Model,” said Julie Fiedler, the executive office of Horse SA, a non-profit organisation based in South Australia.

“It is about building capacity, to build confidence to work forward within their own organisations, achieved through providing a supportive, engaging and constructive environment.”

Fiedler is also undertaking a Masters in Communication through Central Queensland University, and will present the segment related to social licence to operate.

A local workshop is being planned for Horse SA members, based on information learned at the event

• The conference costs $A440 – $A525 for the two days. Expressions of interest for delegate positions can be registered here, or horse sport organisations can contact Horse SA direct on email horsesa@horsesa.asn.au.



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