It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Chris House BVetMed MRCVS, on the 11th November 2019, aged 65.
Chris was brought up in South East London, and was prone to leading his siblings, and friends, into the wilderness of North Kent on long hikes and adventures. As a child he commuted across south London to a grammar school in Battersea, and he was their first pupil to go to vet school. It was at the Royal Veterinary College where he met Jane Jackson, his soul and teammate; he was chef d’equipe when the RVC won the international inter-Vet School riding competition - Jane was amongst the team.
After graduating in 1978, and following a stint in rural equine practice and a crash course in small animals at Elizabeth Street Blue Cross, Chris, and his now wife Jane, founded their own veterinary practice in Blackmore, Essex, in November 1980. Surgery took place in the downstairs cloakroom of Janes parents house, until the ether fumes became too much. Under their stewardship House and Jackson has now grown into a thriving equine and small animal hospital, one of only a handful in the country.
Chris was a true “coalface” equine practitioner, and with this perspective he helped in the modernisation of the British Equine Veterinary Association in the noughties. He served two terms on BEVA Council before joining the presidential tree, and was President of the Association in 2008/9. Chris was heavily involved in the consultations preceding the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the subsequent Codes of Practice. He chaired the industry wide Equine Establishments Working Group when it looked like there might be a real possibility of licensing livery yards, sanctuaries, and dealers. Sadly, the government’s “red-tape challenge” prevented furtherance of this ideal. After BEVA Chris was appointed to the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and led the FRC Disciplinary Committee from 2013 to 2018. He was elected to be Chair of the FRC in January 2019 but, sadly, ill-health prevented him from fulfilling this position. Chris was also a member of the Pet Insurance Veterinary Advisors Group, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, and the RCVS’s representative on the Riding Establishments Committee.
Embedded in the Essex equine community, Chris embraced the variety of work, from cobs and trotters along the Thames Estuary, to hunts and pony clubs, riding schools, professional, and hobby riders. He engaged with the veterinary profession through BEVA, the BVA, and the RCVS, as well as with the Farriers. Vets everywhere can be proud of his dedication, professionalism, and sense of duty.
Away from veterinary duties, Chris was a keen horseman. Determined to ride he first shared a thoroughbred and kept it in working livery at a local riding school. This horse, notorious for teaching people how to fall off, perhaps inspired Chris’s advocacy of Health and Safety on the RCVS Riding Establishment Committee, and in Practice Standards! As a keen huntsman, latterly with the Essex Foxhounds, and a skier, Chris was evidently not averse to risk himself.
Last but not least, Chris was a dedicated father, and a devoted “Grampy”, and above all of their achievements, it was Chris and Jane’s children, and grandchildren, of which he was just as proud.
Chris passed away at St. Clare Hospice, Harlow, and will be lovingly remembered by his wife Jane, his son Graham, his daughters, Thandi and Becky, and his grandchildren, Oscar and Olivia, as well as by his friends, clients, colleagues, and the equine veterinary and local communities. He will be sorely missed. His funeral took place on the 3rd December 2019 at All Saints’ Church, Norton Mandeville, Essex; the same church that Chris and Jane were married in. The mile-long lane was bumper to bumper, and several past BEVA presidents stood outside the tiny church amongst a large crowd of over 300 mourners on a crisp, clear day.
Ben Mayes reflected “Chris was a strong influence on my own time at BEVA. I took over as Chair from him on several committees. In meetings, we shared a reputation for occasionally nodding off; often because we’d been out scanning mares, or some such, prior to hoofing it to Newmarket, London or Stoneleigh. Even at this, Chris, with his occasional snore and, on at least one occasion falling asleep mid-sentence, could not be trumped.
Maddy Campbell remembered “I was lucky enough to work alongside Chris on BEVA Council. Lucky because of the generosity and kindness which he always showed me; because of his experience and enthusiasm: lucky most of all because of his evident enjoyment of the role and of being part of the veterinary profession.
Every image of Chris I have in my mind is of him smiling; sometimes a little more ruefully than others, depending on the situation, but always smiling. Always enjoying. That was a comfort as we stood under the blue sky and winter sunshine celebrating his life today.”
Harry Werner recalled “I was very fortunate to have been AAEP President simultaneously with Chris's leadership of BEVA. I will always remember and be grateful to Chris for the initiative we shared that led to the formation of the International Forum for Working Equids (IFWE). With Chris leading the way, we managed to get leaders of 20 non-government organizations - some of whom were not on speaking terms with each other - sitting at the same table and, helped by Chris's good-natured prodding, sharing updates, their experiences and their needs. The seed was planted regarding the importance of a federation of interested parties for the welfare of working equids. Today, with The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare as the primary players, the International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE) is going strong. I know that, with Chris' strong leadership and refusal to accept the status quo, we were able to help get this ball rolling. This is a wonderful and enduring legacy and a tribute to Chris's noble vision. I know the high regard in which Chris was held - for his dedication to our profession, his skills as a practicing horse doctor and his integrity. I am very proud to have shared leadership positions with Chris and, more so, to have been blessed with his friendship.”