This month we’re shining a light on our Director of Fundraising & Communications, Jess. Jess…
This month we’re shining a light on our Director of Research & Policy, Jan. Jan has been with us since 2018, pushing new developments in the equine world at governmental level to help improve the effectiveness of laws and law enforcement for the horse world. Jan’s favourite achievement to date is The Horse Trust’s Healthiest Body Condition Awards (#TheWeighToWin) and the best part of this work is getting stuck in and speaking to people about just how proud they are of their horses. Jan tells us about her highs, lows, favourite horses, and some very interesting hobbies!
Despite much of her work being away from our Home of Rest for Horses, most of the team has had the pleasure of working with Jan at different points. Whether she’s holding horses for our vet Nicky to poultice hooves, helping on our stand at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, or lending a hand at our yearly Horses, Hounds and Heroes events.
As Jan lives over 200 miles away, we don’t see her as much as we’d like, but she’s always at the end of her phone for a chat, whether that’s to do with Research, Policy or neither!
It’s safe to say variety is the one constant theme for Jan, and that extends to her career, too. Jan graduated in psychology and has taken a very interesting path to get where she is today.
Naturally Jan, our first question is what brought you to work in Research and Policy in the horse world?
“Oh, complete accident!” Jan says in her candid, upbeat manner. “Since graduating I travelled – picking grapes and painting boats, then worked on an organic agricultural show and as a stud groom for a few years. Afterwards, I began working for NFU Mutual selling horse insurance which led me to British Equestrian. Whilst I worked there, I was involved programmes to identify talent in young performance horses and that exciting mix of horses and people, to cut a long story short, led to getting involved with policy work.
My background means that I tend to focus on human behaviour, finding ways to bring about positive change by helping to make it appealing and frictionless, with the end goal of benefitting horses.”
To influence horses’ wellbeing for the better you have to influence the people first.
“Those within the team that specialise in horse behaviour identify the affective (emotional) states of horses and train new behaviours. Within all of that, every horse is owned by a person. To influence horses’ wellbeing for the better, you have to influence the people first,” Jan explains.
Where does this positive policy change for horses begin?
“It starts with lots of listening – understanding why people do what they do and why organisations do what they do, then taking that intelligence, as well as peer reviewed research outcomes, to open conversations at governmental level”.
“It happens the other way as well” Jan explains, “because to understand which policy proposals have a hope of succeeding with horse owners at a practical level, it’s so important to get out there and speak to them. That’s what I love so much about my job.”
Is there an average day as Director of Policy & Research?
“Not really, they’re all very different.” Jan explains that pre-covid her average day was spending a lot of time on a train or in a car to get to meetings, “but now all of this can be done over Zoom which is very cost-effective for us as a charity.”
“Nowadays, whilst fewer days are spent attending conferences and meetings with government officials, it’s still really important to have face to face meetings because it’s all about fostering relationships, which is a very personal thing.”
Where did your passion for horses come from?
“I loved horses as a child, but I wasn’t allowed a pony because we didn’t have any land to keep one, so my mum taught me to ride on tarmac lanes and in a sand school,” Jan reminisced.
“I didn’t have anything to do with horses whilst at university and travelling, but when I “found” horses again I never looked back, really. I’ve owned quite a few horses since. Though I’m not dyed in the wool horsey, I’ve had plenty of colourful horse experience!”
Is there a horse in your life that made a particular impact?
“My old horse who was sadly put to sleep this year at 33 years old had a big influence on my life. I’d had him since he was a yearling, and he helped me to understand a lot about equine behaviour. He was a Morgan Horse called Monnington Laureate”.
“I was very sad to lose him,” Jan says, “but you have to know when the time is right. I loved him to the ends of the earth… when we started to see his behaviours change, we considered his quality of life and decided not to delay. Painful though it was, we have no regrets about doing what we did.”
Jan reminds us that the biggest equine health and welfare problem besides equine obesity is delayed euthanasia; “we funded a PhD project on euthanasia decision making where the student developed a model to help shape and improve the collaboration between vets and owners at this difficult time”.
Euthanasia is a big topic at The Horse Trust and something that will always be very hard, but ultimately we’re glad we can make the kindest decision for the horse.
Do you have any hobbies to wind down?
“That’s easy; roller skating!” Jan says without needing to think. “I used to run ultra marathons, but my knees gave in, so this is my new hobby. I often wonder if roller skating in my 50’s is a good idea.” We definitely think so, Jan!
Finally, what do you like most about The Horse Trust?
“Firstly, the prominent role we’ve taken in putting quality of life first, by looking at horse wellbeing in terms of both physical and emotional factors, largely lead by Gemma, Director of Behaviour and Liane, Quality of Life & Research Director at The Horse Trust. That, and our ability as a charity to fund pioneering research that will benefit horses in so many different ways. I think they’re both things we should all be really proud of.”
What a wonderful note to end our conversation on. Now we’d better leave Jan to it, as no doubt she’ll have a lot of meetings to attend before the day ends!
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