With COP 26 and the threat of global warming consuming much of our thoughts currently, I'm dithering whether or not to extol the virtues of attending a meeting recently when, in fact, I possibly should be feeling guilty of having consumed fuel to do so.

After all, on-line meetings have taken off in a modern world attempting to avoid the Covid-19 virus and there is no question in my mind that this will be a way ahead for the future for a host of reasons of which reducing fuel consumption will no doubt be one.

However, on balance, I take consolation from the fact that some £750 was raised for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund thanks to Perth Equine Vets who organised the meeting at the beautiful venue of Strathallan Castle, thanks to Anna Roberts.

There's much to be said for delicious home-baking and raffle prizes as a way of coaxing money out of pockets and, besides, I enjoyed and arguably benefited from meeting people I might not have otherwise.

Personally, I felt it was a bit like turning the clock back to a time when talks were common place in the equine calendar, particularly during the winter.

Valued as much as a social event as an educational opportunity, a bit like live theatre and concerts, there's nothing to beat listening to a live performer and we had an expert in the shape of Professor Bruce McGorum, head of the equine section at the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Considered a leading authority in the field, part of his research work focuses on equine grass sickness (EGS).

It is difficult to believe that, despite the very best efforts from world-class experts in the field and a considerable amount of funding, a cure for this devastating disease has yet to be found.

It was in 1906/7 that EGS was first recorded at the Barry Buddon Army Camp, near Carnoustie; prior to this it was most likely to have been simply identified as death due to colic.

Among the EU countries, Scotland remains the site of highest incidence with some specific areas in the East of Scotland more prevalent. Despite this, Professor McGorum was quick to remind the audience that EGS is a UK-wide disease with more equine deaths recorded annually in England than in Scotland.

Encouragingly, the early incidence of 20% of annual deaths in equines due to EGS has now reduced to between 1-2% today, with a build-up of immunity the most likely explanation.

So much is known about this awful disease, however when asked the question about the prospect of a cure, Professor McGorum confessed: "I've had lots of eureka moments but sadly none of them have come to fruition – but I'm still hopeful."

Dr Kathy Geyer, from The Moredun Foundation, a registered charity supporting livestock health and welfare through research and education, provided additional information gained from her specialist work in EGS.

The first was news of the EGS Biobank and Database Project which was launched earlier in 2021. Just as its name implied, a resource bank of tissue and data from diagnosed EGS cases has been initiated to aid future research work.

Currently, some 40 vet practices have come on board with the scheme and already 33 individual horse cases have been recorded, with 500 samples of tissue, blood and saliva in the biobank.

It is hoped that a growing awareness by horse owners will provide further donations in the future in order to assist with research leading to that all-too-crucial breakthrough in EGS for future treatment, if not a cure.

The second initiative has witnessed the EGS Fund teaming up with the University of Edinburgh to offer an online CPD course in grass sickness.

The 35-hour course launched on November 1 is designed for professionals and hobby equestrians alike and delivered on-line so that participants can study at their pace. It not only sounds interesting but a percentage of the course fee also goes to the EGS Fund.

Unfortunately, where I stay, West Fife, is one of those areas where EGS is relatively common. Apart from two cases which we have experienced first hand, stories are told in the area of specific fields on local farms where work horses often died with the likely cause to be EGS.

It must have been no less heart-breaking for farm workers to witness the decline and subsequent death of their poor work horses than it is for the modern horse lover to lose their equine 'friend'.

That bond between the work horse (in this case the Clydesdale) and its handler was there to be witnessed first hand at the North of Fife Foal Show, held last weekend, at the Highfield at Howe Centre, near Ladybank.

I always feel a bit like a fly-on-the-wall when attending events like this and thoroughly enjoy relative anonymity among the Clydesdale and local farming communities who merge as one for the 'foal show'.

I genuinely do wonder at the placid temperament of these gentle equine giants who never seem to exploit their power and strength over man to an extent that even the smallest of children appear to be able to walk peaceably beside them.

Although numbers entered and forward in the traditional in hand classes are a shadow of their former self, this show followed a pattern for this beleaguered show season when good spirits and an enthusiastic attitudes prevailed. It was just great and a credit to the organisers, exhibitors and spectators alike.

All that said, there appears to be a total mismatch between the competition witnessed during the judging of the breed classes and those for performance. The former follows what only can be best described as a pedestrian pace dominated by an obsession for lengthy deliberations and minimal action.

Meanwhile, both the driving and ridden classes are very lively, with action obviously playing a big part in proceedings. How the breed transforms from one to the other is remarkable to say the least and testimony again to the temperament of the breed and the ability of the enthusiasts who ride and drive it.

It is a long time since the demands of the furrow and the field had to be addressed by the Clydesdale breed, while the demands of the performance arena with its faster paces are bang up to date.

As controversial as the question may sound to the traditionalist ear, is it time for the breed judges to now focus on sound and purposeful action required in the performance ring to secure their breed’s future?