Britain’s rising tide of horse neglect prompts rehoming push

British Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin with her adopted foal, Santa. Photo: British RSPCA
British Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin with her adopted foal, Santa. © British RSPCA

Britain’s RSPCA has launched a campaign to find homes for a record number of abused, neglected and abandoned horses and ponies, saying the number rescued has almost tripled in the last five years.

The charity says falling prices over the past five years for horses, combined with rising feed and care costs, have led to thousands of horses being neglected and dumped.

It described trends over the last five years as alarming:

  • For every horse in one of its centres, seven are waiting for a place.
  • Convictions relating to equines have more than doubled – bucking the national trend of a reduction in animal welfare convictions.
  • Britain’s worst blackspot for rescues was Hampshire, where 163 horses, ponies and donkeys were rescued last year.
  • It has been called about almost 500,000 horses nationally by worried members of the public.

The RSPCA said its rehoming rate had doubled, but it still had 900 neglected, abused and abandoned horses in its care across England and Wales.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde, who heads a specialist team of equine officers, said: “Over the past five years there has been a marked and very worrying increase in equine neglect and abuse. This is witnessed on a daily basis by frontline staff.

“In 2009 we were removing on average two horses a day. What is most shocking is that we are now removing on average five horses a day.

“This disturbing trend in neglect seems to be affecting equines more than any other animal that we deal with.”

She said inspectors were seeing more large groups of horses which weren’t even being given the very basics – food and water.

“I remember a major issue in Wales in 2013, where we dealt with a group of 300 sick and neglected horses and ponies. It was horrendous, something that I will not easily forget and I fear we will have to deal with something similar again in the future.”

The charity’s Homes for Horses campaign is being launched to find suitable homes for hundreds of our rescue horse and ponies.

Charlotte Dujardin, who scooped double gold medals for dressage at the London 2010 Olympics, rehomed a foal named Santa after the RSPCA found him close to death.

“There are hundreds of horses and ponies which need homes,” she said. “It has has really opened my eyes to what’s going on.

“It would be great if more people could rescue as there are some lovely horses and ponies out there. I’m really pleased I’m able to help the RSPCA.”

The charity’s rehoming operations manager, Abigail Moon, said: “Even though we are rehoming record numbers of horses and ponies we are rescuing more and more each day and still have hundreds looking for fantastic new owners.

“We have Shetlands to Shire horses, leggy foals to bombproof schoolmasters, dependable cobs to showy Arabs and everything in between.

“We really need the horse community to help us tackle the equine crisis and find homes for horses.”

A series of open days is planned at its centres to showcase rescue horses and ponies. More information:


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