NEWC Director Receives Prestigious Equine Award

NEWC Director, Kirsty Withnall, was announced as joint winner of the Sir Colin Spedding Award at the National Equine Forum (NEF) on 7th March 2024.

Kirsty was recognised for her tireless determination as an RSPCA Case Officer, bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Joint winner, Amanda Stoddart-West, was acknowledged for her pioneering work to enhance equine wellbeing as a Coordinator at the Great Yorkshire Show. In addition, Anne Dicker, Managing Partner of the Catherston Stud, was highly commended as an Award finalist for her work in helping to unite the equine sector. The Awards were presented by HRH The Princess Royal, President of NEF.

Kirsty has been an RSPCA Inspector for 23 years, initially as an Equine Officer, before becoming a Case Officer within the RSPCA’s Special Operations Unit (SOU). She provides an overt uniformed response on behalf of SOU and conducts specialist criminal investigations into serious, organised or commercial animal cruelty.

Kirsty has been the lead officer in numerous large, complex, high-profile equine and multi-animal welfare cases. She continues to show great tenacity and perseverance in bringing to justice those responsible for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Most notably, she has been the linchpin in many large-scale operations, where coordination and cooperation with numerous agencies have been vital in securing safe and efficient rescue for equines and other animals. Her diligent collection and collation of evidential material has led to successful prosecutions and the reduction of future cruelty.

Kirsty said: “I am honoured and absolutely delighted to receive this extremely prestigious award. Through my 23 years working for the RSPCA, I know first-hand how rewarding but also extremely challenging the role can be, so it truly means a great deal to have my work recognised in this way.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky to work alongside some outstanding colleagues at the RSPCA, but also with support from other agencies and organisations such as the police, veterinary teams, local authorities and of course members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) – and I believe this award belongs to all of them, too. Together we have achieved incredible results through our joint efforts to protect animal welfare and will for many years to come.”

Amanda Stoddart-West is Livestock and Entries Coordinator for the Great Yorkshire Show (GYS). She has pioneered work to support appropriate rider-to-horse weight ratios and other initiatives to enhance equine welfare at GYS. Progress includes changes to warm-up rules, raised participation age levels for foals, adherence to rules on sensory functions and the introduction of welfare stewards. In the event of any welfare advances being challenged, Amanda has remained firm in her application of the principles, and because of her efforts, these are now being widely adopted across other shows. Most recently Amanda has worked with Equifest to award special prizes for the most harmonious horse and rider combinations to support positive change.

“To be honest, I was totally shocked to be told that I had been nominated for the Sir Colin Spedding Award, and incredibly honoured to be a joint winner of such a revered honour. There are great efforts going into ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare nationally, and this award is a reflection of all of those who are doing such excellent work in this area.

“Personally, I couldn’t have achieved any of what I have without the support of my employers the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, and the Great Yorkshire Show’s Vet, Julian Rishworth who I have been very fortunate to work alongside for the last 21 years.

“There have been times when we have been met with resistance to change but with the support of like-minded people within the industry, and thanks to my good friends, and long-suffering husband and family, hopefully we have made a difference to welfare standards within the showing world”.

Anne Dicker was highly commended for her support of initiatives to bring the equine sector together, both as an individual and through the Catherston Stud. She has contributed to advancing equine groom apprenticeships, training fire responders, developing digital equine ID policy, and research to further the principles of The Happy Equine Athlete. She has also supported the Futurity for many years.

Sir Colin Spedding was the founding chairman of the NEF and chaired the event for 20 years until his death in 2012. He ensured that representatives of all areas of the equine sphere were made welcome to the Forum, and that topics of general interest and concern could be discussed openly and amicably. The award was introduced in 2013, in his memory. It is presented annually to an exceptional unsung hero or heroine of the equestrian world. Any individual or organisation from any equestrian field in the UK is eligible, as long as their outstanding qualities have not been formally acknowledged elsewhere prior to the closing date of nominations. Find out more, here.

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