On Wednesday 2 March, instead of jumping on a horse as part of her normal racing duties at Andrew Balding’s yard, Leanne Masterton, 2014 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Award Employee of the Year, jumped on the Eurostar to Brussels to speak to MEPs and EU officials at the European Parliament.
Leanne was talking at an event organised by the European Horse Network (ENH), a network of European horse sector organisations working with European institutions. Working lunches take place regularly at the European Parliament on various equine issues, chaired by British MEP Julie Girling, and form an important platform to inform and influence major Brussels decision makers. The March meeting focused on Equine welfare and responsible horse ownership, as Julie Girling was introducing her own Parliamentary report on this subject.
Julie Girling said "I am delighted to confirm that the European Parliament has agreed to progress a report on the responsible ownership of equines. I think it is very important to consider the many ways that equines contribute to the quality of life of Europe's citizens and the European economy. In return we owe it to them to set out standards of treatment and welfare and make sure these guidelines provide a benchmark of excellence."
What is envisaged is not a raft of new legislation, but an advisory code, to educate about best practice.
Racing was also represented at the meeting by Dr Paull Khan, Secretary-General of the European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation, which co-ordinates European horseracing activities in the region. Dr Khan said, “For some time now the EMHF has been raising awareness in Brussels of the excellent work done within the European horseracing sector on racehorse health and welfare. Stable staff are an essential part of this, and we are delighted Leanne could come to Brussels to demonstrate at first hand the huge commitment and passion of stable staff looking after the horses in their care. Public and political perception of Racing is important, and we have so many positive things to say in terms of welfare, so it is important we participate in meetings like this.”
“Racing industry commitment, funding and initiatives for rehoming and retraining are better in racing than in any other equine sector, and we are rightly proud of this. Racing's own self-imposed and enforced welfare standards in major EU racing countries far exceed national animal welfare legislation”
Leanne, as well as talking about her own first-hand experiences of looking after racehorses, also talked about the initiatives to retrain and rehome ex-racehorses, “I have had first-hand experience with Group I winning racehorse Side Glance, with whom I travelled the globe – I spent more time with him than some of my family ! He is now set on a second career as a showing horse, and another racehorse I looked after, Pentecost, evented up to intermediate level - I couldn’t be prouder of them.
“You build up a huge bond with the horses you ride and look after, and I was really pleased to be able to talk about this in Brussels and try to convey the commitment the people working in racing have for their horses, as well as show how high the standards and regulations are.”