Romania is a wonderful country with hospitable and warm people, who clearly want to develop a better life than the one endured under communism. Like much of the human population within Romania, horses suffered at the hands of communist policies, which saw the loss of essential equine skills and knowledge about how to care for these important animals. Important, as they became the backbone of Romanian agriculture when communism collapsed in 1989; horses took up the role of tractor, machinery and transport for rural communities. This was still the case when Jo made her first visits with a colleague from World Horse Welfare.
Working with people in Romania, Jo developed a strategy for the charity to move towards addressing the welfare issues facing the equine population, while assisting rural communities, vets and individuals, keen to learn new skills to improve their lives, and the lives of Romania’s horses; Project Romania was born.
Project Romania was a five year educational and awareness campaign; including training seminars and workshops for vets and those wanting to develop the skills of farriery and saddlery. Educational material was produced and distributed to horse owners, vets and the industry, which included two newsletters per year and a dedicated website available in both Romanian and English. Meetings have been undertaken with Government officials, highlighting key welfare issues and a need to support and introduce positive changes to improve the current situation. One of the most important outcomes from Project Romania was the development of a network of Romanian contacts committed to improving horse welfare within the country. These people are already proving invaluable time and again, in helping the horses of Romania and Europe.
2004 – Fact-finding trip to follow-up on requests for help received from Romania regarding key horse welfare concerns. The purpose was to investigate what problems existed, what was causing them and how they could be addressed. Jo and a colleague met with many individuals and organisations, including Romanian vets, farmers, Government officials and the media. They visited many places involved with horses: from veterinary faculties to state studs, from farmers using work horses to the leisure horse stables; to markets and assembly centres collecting horses for slaughter.
2005 – Jo developed a strategy working with key people in Romania and experts in the UK, to develop a project that would tackle welfare issues facing Romania’s horses.
2006 – Project Romania was born. A five year educational and awareness campaign to help the horses of Romania. Its aim was to help educate horse owners, keepers, vets and those caring for horses; equipping them with the skills and knowledge that had been lost during the communist era.
Project Romania was launched in London at a reception hosted at the Romanian Ambassador’s residence, and in Romania at a reception in Bucharest. These events were attended by Government officials from the UK and Romania, vets, farriers, saddlers and key people from the emerging Romanian and established UK horse industries.
2006 to 2010 – Veterinary educational seminars were undertaken including representatives from all of the veterinary faculties. These included specific seminars for students, practitioners and Government vets focusing on their particular requirements. Training workshops were run in farriery and saddlery, developing a network of skilled people who are now having a positive impact through the provision of proper foot care and harnesses; both areas that were highlighted by Romanian’s and were a clear cause of concern during the initial investigations.
2008 – The Romanian State Veterinary Authority authorises access to gather scientific data at Assembly Centres used to collect horses being exported and transported long distances for slaughter. This data forms part of ground-breaking research, resulting in a peer reviewed and published paper; The Welfare and Health of Horses Transported for Slaughter in the European Union. This paper has been submitted as part of an evidence package to the European Commission.
2009 – British Ambassador to Romania Robin Barnett hosted a reception at his residence in Bucharest, aimed at generating support for Romania’s horses. Attended by 62 guests, including the Romanian Secretary of State for Agriculture, senior Government officials, vets, farriers, media, charities, sporting organisations, celebrities and business entrepreneurs; it was hoped that this would help to encourage on-going work to improve the welfare of horses in Romania.
2009 – 2010 – Supporters in Romania answered the charity’s call for help with the transportation campaign to end to the single biggest abuse of horses in Europe, when they contacted their MEP’s in and asked them to sign Written Declaration 54/2009. As a direct result of this action, 28 of the 33 Romanian MEP’s (85%) present in the European Parliament signed. This was an enormous boost to the campaign, particularly as Romania has been one of the main countries involved in the long-distance transport of horses for slaughter, through its export of live horses to Italy.
2010 – The charity initiated and chaired the first meeting encouraging equine vets within Romania to set-up their own veterinary organisation, similar to those run in other countries (eg British Equine Veterinary Association). This marked the birth of AVER (Asociaţia Veterinara Ecvina din Romania – Romanian Equine Veterinary Association), which is now up and running with a management board and growing membership, it has already held a number of meetings to help equine vets in Romania.
2011 – The charity works to achieve a lasting legacy by providing support and advice on horse welfare matters to those working within Romania.
2012 – Jo asked to speak and chair the theory and practical sessions covering horse welfare at the first Romanian workshop for veterinary practitioners: Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach. The workshop was organised by the College of Romanian
Veterinarians in cooperation with the European Commission and Federation of
Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).
2013 – Provided interactive presentation on equine welfare at the first Romanian Equine Veterinary Association (AVER) horse owners conference.
2013 – 2015/on going – Currently developing a new welfare project, following the instigation of the Romanian Equine Welfare Group, made of experts from the UK and Romania (if you are interested in assisting please get in touch).