World Horse Welfare Annual Conference

Head to Facebook or Twitter to join in the conversation using #ChangingTimes

World Horse Welfare's Annual Conference took place on 31 October 2018 in central London. 

This year's theme was 'Changing Times' - and we welcomed a wide range of speakers and discussion panellists who highlighted everything from the need to help people to help horses, the changing trends in equine training methods, the world behind the phenomenon of Gypsy cobs - and of course the possible impacts of Brexit.

The speakers who helped us to explore this year’s themes and topics, were as follows (including links to a video of their presentation):

9:45am – Conference opened by World Horse Welfare Chairman Michael Baines - Watch Michael Baines' Presentation

10:00am – World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers gives his view on Changing Times - Watch Roly Owers' Presentation

10:10am – Why we need to help people if we want to help horses: Utam Kaphle, Executive Director of Animal Nepal - Watch Utam Kaphle's Presentation

10:25am – Equestrian sport: the good, the bad and the ugly – and where next? Richard Davison, former Olympic dressage rider and World Horse Welfare Trustee - Watch Richard Davison's Presentation

10:40am – What is the deal with these gypsy cobs? Andrea Betteridge, Founder of the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association - Watch Andrea Betteridge's Presentation

10:55am – Q&A - Watch the Part 1 Q&A session

11:50am – Seismic shifts? A perspective on Brexit – Tim Collins CBE - Watch Tim Collins' Presentation

12:00pm – Charities, trust and the broad horizon ahead: Jo Saxton, Nfp Synergy - Watch Joe Saxton's Presentation

12:10pm – Q&A – Watch the Part 2 Q&A session

12:20pm – Discussion Panel: An embarrassment of vets on ‘changing times’ - Watch the Discussion Panel

Julian Rishworth, Ebony Escalona, Ben Mayes, Gemma Pearson and Sarah Coombs

Chaired by Nick Powell, Sky News Sports Editor, the discussion panel will focus on a number of key topics as outlined below.

  • The Great Yorkshire Show has adopted a relatively strict policy with regards to rider weight.  How serious an issue is it where riders are mismatched to their mounts?
  • Despite the digital revolution owners still place great trust in their vet.  Given the pivotal role vets play in enhancing equine health and welfare how can they improve communication with their clients?
  • Equine welfare charities have seen a surge in cases involving hard to reach communities over the past few years.  What more could vets be doing to meet this growing challenge?
  • Our understanding of equine behaviour has been transformed over the past few years.  Do artificial aids such as whips and spurs have a place in modern horsemanship?

01:20pm - HRH The Princess Royal - Watch HRH The Princess Royal's speech

01:30pm - Roly Owers summing up - Watch Roly Owers summing up

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ChangingTimes


Watch our 2017 Conference - Invisible Horses of the Future

Thank you to all of our speakers, panellists and guests from our annual conference 2017 at the Royal Geographical Society, London on the theme of "Invisible Horses of the Future".

Watch the conference in full above, or click on the below links to watch each speaker.


Please scroll down to watch previous conferences in full.


Conference 2016 - The Invisible Horse

You can skip to the following presentations and panel discussions through the links below:

The 2016 World Horse Welfare Conference will take place on Thursday 10 November at the Royal Geographical Society in London exploring the theme of 'The Invisible Horse'.

Download the event programme here.

We will explore what makes a suffering horse – or one that is likely to suffer – ‘invisible’ and the essential role of charities and others in bringing them into the light and their ongoing work to tackle the root causes of their invisibility. 

A range of influential presenters will help us develop our theme including:

  • His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Emirates Heritage Club in the UAE, on The Bouthib Initiative, a way of valuing welfare above speed in the sport of endurance 
  • Chris Riggs of the Hong Kong Jockey Club on the ongoing development of equine health and welfare standards in China 
  • Singer-songwriter, actor and Patron of Shires Holt Sanctuary Will Young on invisible horses on Bodmin Moor and beyond.
  • Broadcaster, journalist, author and lecturer Anthony Hilton on trust in charities 
  • Cian Murphy Head of Data Analysis at charity research consultancy nfpSynergy on rebuilding trust

Our discussion panel, chaired by Suzanne Dando Reynolds will help lead a debate on the role of charity in equine welfare in the UK. Panellists include:

  • Harry Meade - International event rider and Dodson & Horrell Ambassador
  • Angela Smith - Labour MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge
  • Tim Morris - Member of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England
  • Louise Kittle - Editor of Horse & Rider and Pony magazines
  • Barry Johnson MRCVS - Chairman of World Horse Welfare


For more information, contact


Conference 2015 - Challenging the Status Quo


The 2015 World Horse Welfare Conference, kindly sponsored by Betfair, took place in London on Tuesday 10th November.  

You can skip to the following presentations and panel discussions through the links below:

About the 2015 Conference


Challenging the status quo


Why do we keep horses the way we do?  Would the UK’s horses be better off outside of the EU, or within it?  Are the ‘traditional’ ways of improving performance really the best ways?  Which beliefs and practices truly stand the test of time, and which should be challenged forcefully? 

Wherever there are horses in the world there are longstanding traditions – can some of these be the root cause of the welfare problems we see today?

We explored the theme through a series of presentations, with speakers including:


  • Former Defra Minister Sir Jim Paice
  • Celebrated jockey and author, John Francome
  • Spanish veterinary surgeon Josep Subirana
  • Head of Equine Clinical Orthopaedics at the AHT Sue Dyson 

We also promoted dialogue through our debating panel:


  • Lucy Higginson (Journalist and editor).
  • David Hunt (President of the International Dressage Trainers Club)
  • Danny Mills (Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine, University of Lincoln)
  • Melissa Kite (author and Contributing Editor of the Spectator).
  • Celia Marr (equine vet specialising in internal medicine).


Our 'Charity in Action' presentations tackled a series of equine myths:

  • International – how do we best encourage working horse owners to change misplaced horse care practices?
  • UK – are traditional management techniques like worming putting the UK’s horses at risk?
  • Campaigns – do authorities all too often pay lip service to enforcement?


Attendance at the event is by invitation-only, but it will be live streamed on the day and media can request a place by contacting

Official invitations will be sent in September. 


See below for previous conferences.


2014 Conference - 'What is the Value of Horses?'


World Horse Welfare's 2014 Conference took place on Thursday, 13 November at the Royal Geographical Society, London - Watch the full stream from the event below, or look further down the page for links to individual presentations.

Last year we considered the thought-provoking question: 

What is the value of horses? 

View the individual presentations and the debate

You can skip to the following presentations and panel discussions through the links below:

The day provided a fascinating insight into the real and perceived value of horses and we are deeply grateful to Betfair for their generous sponsorship of our flagship event for the fourth consecutive year.

Various notions of the value of horses periodically hit the headlines and spark debate. Is a horse ‘just a horse’? Would the world economy collapse without them? Do governments recognise the billions that the horse sector contributes to their national economies? What price would a parent pay for a pony that changes the life of their child struggling with a disability? Is it worse to treat live horses like rubbish or send them for a price for meat?

Conference 2014 programme coverWe secured a varied range of influential presenters to help us explore this fundamental and emotive topic, including:

  • Roger Scruton, writer and philosopher, on the purpose and value of horses.
  • Soenke Lauterbach, Secretary General of the German Equestrian Federation, on the value of horses in Europe in sport and leisure.
  • Professor Cathy McGowan, School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, on the value of the working horse in developing countries.
  • Jason Hare, Royal Marine Veteran who was injured by an IED on his third tour of Afghanistan and now helps other injured service personnel and veterans at the charity HorseBackUK in Scotland. He will talk on the life-changing power of horses.

In a change to our previous Question Time style panel discussion, in 2014 our forum took the shape of mini-debates, including contrasting views on the role of horse slaughter in welfare and what is really essential for good horsemanship.  The discussion was chaired by TV commentator Philip Ghazala with the panel being made up by: Richard Davison, international dressage rider and trainer; Professor Natalie Waren, Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies; Liz Jones, Daily Mail journalist; and Peter Webbon, former chief executive of the Animal Health Trust.

For more information contact us at

Our Conference - 2013

This year's Conference took place on Thursday 14th November at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in the presence of our President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. We streamed our Conference live for the first time - watch here and through the links below.

You can follow the conversation on Twitter using #horsesinthefuture. We Tweeted live from the event on @horsecharity.

View the individual presentations and the debate

You can skip to the following presentations and panel discussions through the links below:

Introductions and opening remarks

Main presentations

Discussion panel forum (full)

Discussion panel forum by question



World Horse Welfare Conference 2013 Programme

We were delighted to have secured four influential speakers for the event:

  • Lord Howard of Lympne QC, former Leader of the Conservative Party, will be speaking on 'One Standard for All? The Globalisation of Racing'.
  • Alex Hua Tian, China’s first Olympic eventer, will be speaking on 'Growing Pains: Young Equestrians, Young Markets'.
  • Felicity Lawrence, Special Correspondent for the Guardian, will be speaking on 'Enduring Threads in the Tangled Horse Meat Web'.
  • Professor Derek Knottenbelt, internationally-renowned veterinary surgeon, will be speaking on 'The Future of Horsepower'.


Conference 2013 Panellists

We welcomed back the popular 'Question Time'-style discussion panel to debate a variety of key horse welfare issues. It was chaired by TV commentator Philip Ghazala and this year's panellists were:

  • Defra Minister Lord de Mauley
  • Celebrated 3-day Eventer and trainer Ian Stark
  • Horse & Country Television broadcaster and presenter Jenny Rudall*
    (*replacing Suzanne Dando)

  • Endurance rider Anna Williams

Download the full programme, which includes more information on the presentations, and biographies of the speakers and panellists, here...


About the conference:

We are deeply grateful to Betfair for their generous sponsorship of our flagship event.

Our annual conference is an important event in the equestrian welfare calendar, where people from a range of organisations, institutions and areas of the horse world can come together and discuss the most pressing issues facing horse welfare today.

Roly Owers speaking at the 2012 conferenceHeld every November, the day features a number of presentations and a discussion forum, as well as the chance for attendees to take a closer look at the work of our own charity in the UK and around the world.

For more information about our annual conference, including enquiries about how to attend if you are a member of the press, please phone 01953 498682 or email

We regret that due to limitations on numbers this event is not open to general attendance from members of the public, but if you feel your organisation would benefit from attending please get in touch and we will assess requests depending on availability in the future.

We look forward greatly to sharing the latest from our 2013 conference with all of our supporters in the run-up to the event and afterwards, including videos from the presentations and discussions - don't forget to follow us on Twitter for live tweets from the day!

Previous conferences:

2012 – The Importance of horses in Society Today

Addressing an audience of more than 250 guests from across the horse world including the charity’s President HRH The Princess Royal, high profile speakers explored the different roles horses play in society today, highlighting a wide range of perceptions of horses and how they should be treated. A discussion forum comprised of powerful figures in the horse community debated the most topical welfare issues including the Grand National, overbreeding, unacceptable training methods, rising disease risk and the imbalance between the profile of a welfare issue and its significance.

Read our full press release about what went on at the 2012 event here...

2011 – Olympics 2012: What legacy for horse welfare?

Speakers for our 2011 conference included our President HRH The Princess Royal,  Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson MP; renowned racing journalist and broadcaster Alastair Down, and prominent equine reproduction specialist Dr Jonathan Pycock. Topics discussed included overbreeding in the equine industry, the use of the whip in racing, the duty of care to horses in sport, the Olympic Legacy and the media’s role in sport horse welfare.

World Horse Welfare’s Chief Executive Roly Owers and our former Chairman Christopher Hall also spoke at the event to provide an overview of our work to help horses in the UK and overseas. Roly Owers said: “With the Olympic Games fast-approaching, we felt the annual conference was an excellent opportunity to discuss a number of issues relating to the welfare of horses being used in sport. It is also timely as horseracing has hit the headlines on a number of occasions this year, most recently with the debate over the use of the whip.


Topics covered at our 2010 conference included a review of the latest developments of our affiliate the Cart Horse Protection Association's grassroots owner education scheme, the challenges faced by working horses in Honduras, the ever-increasing threat of infectious diseases, and the welfare problems faced by overweight horses.


Topics covered at our 2009 conference included the latest developments in our transportation campaign, a welfare forum answering a range of questions from the importance of horses in the developing world to tackling the problem of overweight horses, and how our undergraduate bursary scheme helped to investigate equine strangles in Lesotho.