By Helene Mauchlen

I am sure I am not the only person who has been skulking recently – it’s been a skulking sort of year; this time it was around the local amenity site feeling very guilty putting sealed bags of pulled ragwort into the household waste for landfill. It was a great relief to see the ragwort problem aired in this magazine recently. For us horse people and especially in The BHS, every August becomes Ragwort Apprehension month with a high level of alertness that is a hangover from running Scotland’s Ragwort Helpline for a decade a decade ago.

Good farmers and land managers don’t allow ragwort to spread on their land and that includes good horse owners, sometimes it seems like equines cause ragwort to grow because we all see them - the fields full of bright yellow stinking willie with ponies grazing the tight grass around them. Definitely not freedom to enjoy a correct diet under section 24 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) 2006 Act. Disposal of this noxious weed is a real challenge. I recently heard of fly tipping that consisted of an ancient caravan full of pulled ragwort. Why – you ask yourself- have the social conscience to pull ragwort – then fly tip it and make it someone else’s problem?

The Scottish Government Guide on the matter has a great decision tree on options and includes disposal – putting ‘small’ quantities of pulled ragwort into landfill is ok – promise!

Instead of skulking The BHS is calling on our members to be Ambassadors for responsible riding this month with the release of our inspiring new ‘Leave no trace – Leave Space’ infographic that tries to instil some corporate responsibility in all of us as we as a sector help by “being the change you wish to see” in today’s countryside.

Recently the industry welcomes government investment in the form of a mailing to Scottish horse owners on the equine identification legislation and yes it does confirm that all Scottish equines need to be microchipped by the end of March 2021. This move will help with equine welfare and disease control for everything and everybody bringing horses and ponies into line with other agricultural animals.

I feel very sorry for those with needle shy horses but vets (like dentists) are very good at combatting fear and anxiety these days – so this is another example of horse people having to step up to the plate and do the right thing, even if your old pony never leaves its field. The BHS along with other welfare agencies are planning some sort of ‘chip and go’ manoeuvre this winter so watch this space.

Lets make sure our ponies don’t have to start skulking too by keeping them above the law.