BHS Scotland is delighted that our government is consulting on the registration and licensing of animal sanctuaries and rehoming activities.

That’s especially so given the rise in the number of people thinking they are altruistically ‘collecting, rescuing and rehoming’ horses and ponies but often without the funds, facilities or knowledge to make sure the five freedoms can be ensured.

This three-month consultation will look to implement a modern system of ‘light registration’ or ‘stricter licensing’ and set a threshold of what exactly constitutes a sanctuary. The papers propose those with 5-10 equines would be registered and eleven or more licensed.

Licensing will require inspection – which will have to be paid for – it is proposed that the Scottish SPCA could carry out this activity to reduce the burden on local authorities. The timing of inspections is also discussed and could be on a risk assessed basis with powers to revoke of licenses also under consideration.

It is also being suggested that only ‘fit and proper’ persons will be allowed to operate rehoming activities and those who are disqualified for animal welfare reasons or holding unspent criminal records will not be.

Standards will be based on resources published for each species – in our case it would probably be the Scottish Government ‘Code of Practice for the welfare of equidae’ and appropriate fixed penalties could be applied for minor non-compliance. All good in the eyes of the British Horse Society, long overdue and sounds like being practical and possible.

While the horse world in Scotland definitely faces challenges with ‘collectors’, just think what this proposal means to cat and dog stakeholders?

Otherwise, in welfare policy, fixed penalty notices under the Scottish Animal Health and Welfare Act are going to be introduced which should make the enforcement of legislation especially around minor offences easier, there may well be a ban on travelling circuses.

I think this shows Scotland to be very progressive, the new equine identification regulations will come into play. We have a commitment that all animal boarding for financial reward will be regulated in the near future and this will include livery yards.

So, the Scottish Government and the BHS march into 2018 with a lot of partnership work in respect of equine welfare policy in the offing and the promise of even more protection for Scotlands’ equines.

BHS Scotland held an excellent annual meeting early in December, where the ‘Derek Knottenbelt Challenge’ saw each of our 13 regional committees present a slide show of at least 10 actions they have undertaken on behalf of the horse in their areas. From dinner dance to motorbike rally, from local show to press campaigns promoting ‘dead slow’, the variety of event put on by our volunteers across Scotland was immense – including table top stands, fun fundraisers, open gardens, ‘canter and cake’ rides and consultation responses, access cases, welfare cases and meetings. A huge thanks to BHS Scotland volunteers for all they do.

The icy grip of winter is upon us, so here are some top tops for winter horse care from BHS Scotland:

Float apples in water troughs that tend to freeze.

Use a light under-rug to keep the top one clean.

Insulated tap covers work wonders as do hand knitted wool socks!

Fill a few days’ worth of hay nets at one time.

Avoid riding or travelling your horse on icy roads if possible.

Keep your riding hat and boots in the warmth – plain common sense – and make sure you have a large hi-viz reflective waistcoat that fits over your outerwear for riding out.

Finally – add a festive touch by hanging a bough of berried holly in your stable (out of reach, of course) and you will never be troubled by ring worm again as holly has anti-bacterial properties. Peaceful stables and contented cuddies to you all.