The iconic Cambridge mare and foal statue.

International experts and delegates will review of some of the country’s top equestrian facilities, when the global International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) hosts “A Good Life for Horses” Conference for the first time in New Zealand, at Cambridge 14-16 March.

On 15 March, a Field Day will be conducted to explore the implementation of horse welfare principles in various sport, leisure and working contexts.  These include: Cambridge Stud, New Zealand’s iconic Thoroughbred nursery; Event Stars, a top Thoroughbred rehoming operation; Pike Racing, one of the country’s top race training enterprises; KB Bloodstock, a retraining facility of Thoroughbreds for performance in polo; and Takapoto Showjumping, a bespoke state-of-the-art equestrian competition facility.

The ISES Conference comes at a time when equestrian sports is increasingly being challenged for its “social licence to operate”, as the global organisation that unites equestrians, equine researchers, vets, and practitioners from various disciplines in the name of the horse. 

Internationally recognised animal behaviour and welfare scientist Professor Natalie Waran says Australasia is in a strong position to lead the world in horse welfare due to our lifestyles, history, climate and population. 

“We’re fortunate to be at the forefront in equine welfare research and practice with our world recognised equine behaviour, health and welfare experts. We aim to ensure that research is applied and relevant, provides knowledge to address issues of concern and that we are all part of an international equestrian community that is striving for ‘a good life for horses’, with a focus on why it’s vital and how we can provide it within the contexts of sport and leisure,” she says. 

Professor Craig Johnson (Massey University) is the ISES Conference keynote speaker, with his presentation entitledNot just what do we know, but how do we know it?”

Professor Johnson began studying horses in the UK in the late 1980s.  His interest in the welfare of horses has led him to explore how they are affected by emotions, and he says the results are surprising. 

Plenaries include presentations from:

  • Professor Paul McGreevy (England) “Living a good life”
  • Dr Andrew McLean (Australia) “Riding, training, tack and equipment”
  • Dr Cath Henshall (Australia) “The emotional life of the horse”
  • Associate Professor Janne Winther-Christensen (Denmark) “The impact of life experiences”
  • Professor Kat Visser (Netherlands) “The horse-human interaction”
  • Professor Madeleine Campbell (England) “Sustainable and ethical equine practice”

The ISES Conference will be held at the Sir Don Rowlands Centre at the Mighty River Domain, 601 Maungatautari Road, Leamington, Karapiro 3494.  Between 150-200 delegates are expected to take part.

As many equestrians also have dogs and cats, the ISES Conference is being held back-to-back with the Companion Animals of New Zealand Conference a day earlier on 12 March.   Companion animals are those animals who share our homes and lives. The category is often limited to dogs and cats, but may also include birds, horses, and other domesticated animals.