07/03/2012 Response to the Growing Numbers of Horses and Ponies being Neglected

Further to recent reports from the RSPCA that there are a growing number of horses being neglected and needing to be taken in to the care of charities such as The Horse Trust, based in Speen, Buckinghamshire has prompted The Trust , who is celebrating 125 years of caring for the working horse, to respond. 

The Trust’s equine welfare helpline answers on a daily basis enquiries from horse owners who have purchased a low value horse or pony only to discover that the horse is difficult to handle or unable to be ridden.

These low value animals often have poor conformation as a result of poor breeding.  The impact of this can sometimes impose physical limitations on the animal causing problems such as lameness but importantly means its chances of finding a viable home is extremely limited.  Rehoming large numbers of these animals is therefore simply not an option for charities as not enough homes exist for such horses and ponies.

Correctly proportioned horses are naturally well balanced and move freely and each breed possesses the qualities required for its purpose.  For example, a shire horse does well pulling wagons because of its strong muscles and thick proportions and a thoroughbred performs well at speed as it has a light body frame and long muscles.

Jeanette Allen, Chief Executive of the charity said, “Poor quality breeding can often mean there is little  incentive to provide good standards of care and subsequently these animals are often neglected or abandoned.”  She continued, “The public need to be aware of the financial impact neglected and abandoned animals have on already burdened charities and the finite spaces available.”

Willie and Piglet, recently rescued ponies given sanctuary at The Horse Trust are such examples.

Piglet’s value on the open market was probably no more than £50 and the antibiotic treatment required for his severely infected eye cost more than it would have to purchase him.  This dear little 9hh, skewbald Shetland pony found dumped without a care on a busy roadside, was rescued by The Horse Trust, and has since needed two operations and the associated care necessary for a full recovery and has so far cost the charity £3,200.

14.2hh skewbald Willie brought to the charity suffering from a chronic infection that required immediate surgery.  Fully recovered from his radical operation he then required chemotherapy cream treatment for a large sarcoid on his leg, a cancerous growth that is now fully healed, bringing the total cost of his veterinary care alone, to date is £3,100 - all paid for by The Horse Trust. Willy’s value at auction is only in the region of £200.

Liane Crowther, The Trust’s Equine Welfare Development Manager, said, “My team speaks to owners who are struggling financially to keep their horses and we offer advice and counselling as sadly sometimes the only humane option to consider is euthanasia.”  She continued, “We occasionally also receive calls from very well intentioned people who have “rescued” a low value animal from a market only to then realise they do not have the financial or time capacity to properly care for them. We would seriously dissuade members of the public from buying a horse or pony without having carefully thought through the time and financial commitment required. Taking on a low value animal significantly reduces the options should the new owner not be able to continue to provide the necessary care ”

Jeanette Allenadded, “The Horse Trust has extremely limited capacity to take in welfare cases and so we have to prioritise local, clinical emergencies. We do however invest much time and resources in supporting the various frontline agencies including the police, local authorities and other charities with training in horse handling and welfare assessment.”