The late Mr. Arthur George MBE, former Secretary of the Welsh Agriculture Society and a member of the Welsh Agricultural Equine Association, was very concerned that those in the Horse World did not appear to act in concert. He therefore invited the late Professor Colin Spedding and Graham Suggett to meet with him on the Welsh Stand at the 1991 Royal Show to discuss what might be done.
As a result, during 1992, representatives of a number of organisations (especially the Welsh Agricultural Equine Association, the Association of British Riding Schools and the National Farmers’ Union) met to discuss ways in which the horse and pony industry could “speak with one voice” when that was needed and appropriate. The outcome was a proposal to establish a National Equine Coordinating Council (NECC) and as a first step a Seminar was organised at the NFU headquarters to discuss issues of immediate importance and to float the idea of a NECC. The concept was well received and development work commenced, only to founder over the issue of funding.
Whilst being disappointed those who had been members of the small organising committee believed that the concept of a Forum should be maintained as it had had such a good reception. Thus was born the National Equine Forum with an organising committee, formed from a nucleus of those who had pioneered the original concept, with Professor Colin Spedding at the helm as Chairman, and the secretaryship funded by the Association of British Riding Schools through the generosity of the then Chairman, Mrs Pauline Harris.
The organising committee of the National Equine Forum is a freestanding body with no other remit than to run this national event. Members of the Committee are unpaid volunteers, with only essential and exceptional travelling expenses paid. The Administrator is paid a small honorarium, the Hon. Sec. and the PR Officer are paid a small fee. The format of the Forum evolved as a low cost operation due to the fact that no-one wanted yet another competing body, or the cost of running it.
The first Forum, held in 1993, could not, of course, assume that it would be annual, but it was so well received that a decision was made to run it annually, if possible. The possibility became fact due to generous sponsorship and speakers giving of their time without payment which has made it possible to operate.
The importance of the National Equine Forum is illustrated by the appropriate Minister in Defra, previously MAFF, opening or speaking at the Forum (Nicholas Soames in 1993 and 1994; Angela Browning in 1995 and 1996; Lord Donoughue in 1998; Baroness Hayman in 1999 and 2000 [with only the FMD outbreak preventing her from taking part in 2001]; Elliot Morley [standing in for Alun Michael] in 2002; Alun Michael in 2003, 2004 and 2005; Jim Knight in 2006; Barry Gardiner in 2007; Jonathan Shaw in 2008; Jane Kennedy, represented by Arik Dondi, in 2009; James Paice 2011; Owen Paterson in 2013 and 2014 [Owen Paterson was represented by Alick Simmons in 2014]; Lord de Mauley, 2015; George Eustice MP, 2016; and Lord Gardiner of Kimble, 2017 and 2018). The Forum has also been greatly honoured by the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, who has contributed her ideas as part of the programme since 1996. The Princess Royal is now the President of the Forum. The Forum was held at the Royal Veterinary College, then the Royal Society and in 2012 it moved to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Each year the programme is determined by topical issues with ample opportunity being afforded for questions, contributions and discussion from the floor. The main purpose, however, remains as being an opportunity for the equine industry to share its thoughts and to serve as a sounding board for others to float ideas and proposals.
Since 2015, a number of Honorary Fellows have been appointed. This is a role that recognises those who have made an important contribution to the National Equine Forum. Honorary Fellows are: Duncan Brown; Peter Clarke MBE; Andrew Finding OBE; Dr Harry Greenway; Paul Jepson; Rosemary Phillipson-Stow; John Smales, Prof Graham Suggett OBE; Gordon Wesley; and Miles Williamson-Noble.