A British equine charity has voiced its concern over first-time horse owners “rescuing” horses from markets, sometimes buying them for less than £10.
“This low price tag continues to attract novice owners who are unaware of the ongoing expense and responsibility of lifelong horse ownership,” said Rachel Angell, who is operations manager for Redwings.
“However, in our experience, despite believing they’re ‘rescuing’ a low-value horse, the owner may then in turn go on to neglect or abandon the horse themselves as they cannot meet the costs of daily care nor sell the horse on.”
Redwings said it had noted a worrying increase in calls from horse owners since the start of the year.
During the first week of 2015 it received 31 calls, involving 39 equines, from owners asking the charity to take in their horses – a 40.9 per cent increase on the same period in 2014.
Similarly, of the 1241 calls to its welfare line in 2014, 45.9 per cent were from owners asking for help securing an alternative home for their horses.
Redwings said the current equine crisis in Britain, coupled with the fact that most sanctuaries were operating at maximum capacity, meant it was especially important that owners and potential owners understood the personal and financial commitment of horse ownership.
The key message was: If in doubt, don’t.
“We are working hard to try and educate potential owners as to what is involved in taking on a horse,” Angell said.
Horse ownership was a lifelong commitment, she said, pointing out that some animals could live to over 30.
“Owning a horse can be hugely rewarding, but it is also a huge responsibility.
“We therefore encourage owners to evaluate the impact of horse ownership on all areas of their lives and to ensure they plan for the unexpected – a redundancy, loss of rented land, an illness, and injury to either owner or horse.
“Sadly, an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude can have serious welfare implications.”
Redwings said it wanted to emphasise the lifelong care aspect of the message.
It had noticed a rise in calls to its welfare line to take in veteran or retired horses, which may be attributed to a lack of value placed on animals that can no longer be worked, or increased veterinary costs associated with old age.
“The influx of welfare calls during the first week of 2015 is a concern and we hope it is not a reflection on things to come,” Angell said.
“But we are proactive in providing practical advice to owners and educating potential owners as to what is truly involved in horse ownership.
“Above all else, we would want to stress the need for potential horse owners to think before they purchase and prepare for every eventuality.”
Angell urged those who were confident of being able to provide for a horse to consider taking on a rescue horse from a charity such as Redwings.
“We can help you find the right horse or pony for you and support you as you get to know your new friend, and you are also helping make space for us to rescue more horses in return.”
More information on Redwings’ guardianship scheme here.