'Think before you breed' message to horse breeders

March 3, 2009

The British Horse Society is launching a Responsible Breeding Campaign later this year in response to the large number of horses and ponies being bred in the UK.

Alarmed by the number of horses being bred without adequate consideration being given to their future, the BHS will start the campaign with the support of South Essex Insurance Brokers.

The current recession has brought the issue of overbreeding into even sharper focus. The horse market has slowed down and rescue centres and sanctuaries are filling up. With an estimated 1.35 million horses and ponies in the UK, the BHS says there are simply not enough experienced and knowledgeable homes to cope with the current equine population.

The BHS is urging everyone involved with horses to think very carefully before breeding a foal and adding to the problem.

It is not uncommon for horses to reach 30 years of age, and ponies even older, so even with the best of intentions nobody can guarantee a foal a home for life. Whatever the breeder's plan for the foal, it is essential to do everything possible to ensure healthy, well-put together animals are produced that will have a future value on the commercial market.

Too many mare owners put their horse in foal without objectively considering her merit as a commercial broodmare. To their owners all mares are special, but there are many defects and diseases that are heritable and could be passed on to a foal, limiting its worth. Not all such traits are visible and an alarming number of people go into horse breeding on a whim without sufficient thought to the consequences.

"You only need to visit one of the lower end horse markets to see the impact of equine overproduction - poor quality horses and ponies going for less than the price of a good night out," said BHS Welfare Senior Executive Lee Hackett.

"Our welfare officers have many distressing stories of where these horses end up and I'm sure it's not what their breeders originally intended.

"We are hugely grateful to South Essex Insurance Brokers for their very generous sponsorship of this campaign. Thanks to them we are able to highlight this very genuine equine welfare issue and hopefully encourage people to think carefully before breeding from their horses."

A number of events are planned for the campaign.