snow ponies Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith

There are millions of horses across England, some are wild and others are used for the riding and racehorse industries. These beautiful creatures (who mostly enjoy company of other equines) are often seen in fields, when not stabled at night. Even if you don’t live alongside horses, there are lots of ways that we can help horse welfare.

find good resources for horse welfare

If you care for horses directly, take an inventory of your paddock and stable (to prevent horse theft) and ensure you have the proper time & finances to keep horses, before adopting or fostering. If you know children (or adults) who care for horses, gift a good book on horse care that covers safety, feeding, grooming, bathing, tack cleaning and fair aid. Just imagine if every horse guardian owned a copy of this book, it could prevent so many issues.

You can report concerns (or get advice) at World Horse Welfare. This site is packed with information on helping equines both here and abroad (some horses abroad are starving, due to climate change). It also runs campaigns against horse smuggling and live transport. The site has information on ragwort (easily removed with a ragfork). The site Ecosulis has info on cinnabar moths that feed on ragwort, and ideas to reduce toxicity of ragwort to horses & livestock.

Red Gorilla International offers premium feeding, mucking out and cleaning accessories including a two-handled flexible Tubtrug™ and anti-clog brooms with integrated scraper edge. Ecobale is a quality brand of cardboard horse bedding, ideal for allergies.

ask doctors not to use ‘horse urine’ HRT

Some brands of HRT medicine are made from the urine of pregnant horses, who are chained up to take their hormone-rich urine, with their foals often killed. Ask your GP what’s in your HRT medicine (if you take it), and if it contains horse urine, ask for another brand. Or try natural methods like Dr Vegan MenoFriend (sold in a metal tin with compostable refill pouches, most women feel benefits within 2 months – speak to your GP before taking).

report ‘tethered horse’ concerns to councils

One issue that is often upsetting is seeing tethered horses near roundabouts and on small roads. This is often a common practice within travelling communities, who don’t own land, so wish their horses to graze. As long as the horses have water and are regularly moved, this is unfortunately legal. However you can still report concerns to RSPCA. What is more helpful is likely finding local people with land, to offer it to those who resort to such measures, rather than making judgements.

don’t take ‘carriage rides’ with horses

One area of contention in New York City is the horses used to give carriage rides in Central Park. Although it looks a nice ‘memory’, many horses are spooked by traffic, and several have been killed or injured in car accidents. A local nonprofit wants the horses to go to sanctuaries and have created a  beautiful vintage-style electric car that is cheap and clean to run, and would give more profits to drivers, for a nice tourist ride, but no risk to animals.

don’t feed wild ponies (inc. the New Forest)

The New Forest is home to 600 km of beautiful woodland, heath and river valleys where ponies, deer and cattle roam free in peace, with most areas being free from cars. New Forest ponies are semi-feral so never touch or feed them – they have plenty of natural food and could bite or kick if disturbed. ‘Verderers’ are employed to watch over ponies and attend incidents. Animals have right of way on New Forest roads. So if driving nearby, carry an animal emergency card as it’s a legal requirement to report accidents. Read more on making roads safer for wildlife.

There are around 5000 wild New Forest ponies, who have been here for around 2000 years. Grazing helps to protect rare species like chamomile, and dates back to when commoners were allowed to graze land in return for adhering to strict laws. Southern damselflies even lay their eggs in the water-filled hoof-prints of ponies and cattle! The ponies are rounded up each year in staggered ‘drifts’ to check their health and help wean foals.

don’t support the horse-racing industry

Each year many horses die at the Grand National and Cheltenham Racecourse (the only ‘sport’ that lets  animals be legally whipped). League Against Cruel Sports wants races of 4 miles or more (with fences) to be banned (other horses die during training or elective euthanasia). It also wants a reduction on number of horses and making fences easier for tired horses.

Animal Aid wants a government body responsible for racehorse welfare (instead of self-regulating) as 13,000 foals are born into the British and Irish racing industry each year, due to the huge financial benefits of a winning horse. One campaign is for £12 million of prize money to be directed to racehorse aftercare. Many ex-racehorses become stud horses for breeding, but it’s inevitable that some end up in the abattoir. One way to help is to support sanctuaries (Racehorse Rehoming Centre and Racehorse Rescue).

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