A British charity has launched a campaign to help horse owners understand the impacts, costs and risks involved in breeding, amid ongoing concerns about unwanted horses.
World Horse Welfare’s initiative was launched following research that showed the substantial impact of small-scale breeders.
The charity’s research revealed that, collectively, twice as many foals were produced by those who had bred only one to five foals in their lives than by those who had bred more than 100 each.
“The results are truly surprising,” the charity’s chief executive, Roly Owers, said.
“Professional breeders, dealers and the racing industry are often blamed for producing too many horses, and while this may be true, the numbers appear to be reducing in line with the current market.
“Evidence suggests that, in racing alone, numbers have reduced by 25 percent.
“With these bigger players, you would think that those who produce just one foal, or a couple in their lifetimes, aren’t making an impact. But our research shows that this just isn’t the case – each horse owner makes an impact and we hope our initiative will help guide them through the considerations of breeding in a compassionate, realistic and informative way.
“It is vital that every group acknowledges their contribution to the problem and takes steps to rectify it,” Owers said.
The campaign follows revelations by the major equine charities that about 7000 horses in Britain are deemed at risk of needing rescue or new homes. Six months ago, the charities put the number at 6000.
World Horse Welfare’s breeding survey was completed by nearly 4000 horse owners across Britain. Almost a quarter of respondents had bred from the horses they currently owned, producing a total of 4129 foals, and many more were hoping to breed in the future.
Respondents breeding just one to give foals each were responsible for over a third of all the foals bred.
With thousands of people all doing the same, this meant a huge number of extra horses born every year, the charity said.
“Every foal born increases the chance of neglect, either to that horse directly or by taking up a valuable home and thus pushing another horse into an awful situation,” Owers said.
“We witness first-hand just how the breeding of foals can lead to abandonment and severe neglect, having already seen a 40 percent increase in the number of horses coming into our centres this year.”
Overall, the top five reasons why people bred from their horse were:
- To produce a foal to compete on in the future.
- Because the horse had a nice nature.
- To continue the horse’s bloodline.
- To produce a foal they could use for leisure riding or driving in the future.
- Because the horse had a good competition record.
“No matter what steps you take to produce a healthy foal, it is always possible that he or she could be born with, or develop a problem,” Owers said.
“Even a top quality mare and stallion can produce a foal with conformational, developmental or behavioural problems. There is no guarantee that the foal you breed will be suitable for its intended role.”
Half of respondents who had bred from their stallion did so to produce a horse that could be brought on and sold in the future.
“Horses are the same as anything else in that the more there are, the less money they sell for.
“When horses are readily available for little money, some being sold for as little as £5, this often leads to unscrupulous people taking advantage of the situation.
“Breeding a foal can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. However, it is important to consider all the potential problems before making the decision, and whether there may be a better option.”
Owers said the choices people made as horse-owners could make a real difference to many horses’ lives, not only in reducing the amount of neglect, but also to make it easier for horses to find good, safe homes in the future.
“You can now rehome youngsters from World Horse Welfare and bring them on yourselves. If you don’t gel with the horse or pony, then we will be happy to take him or her back again.”
Owers urged people to consider rehoming a horse, saying people who do so help to ease horse suffering around Britain.
The charity’s leaflet, “Need to breed?”, can be downloaded from here.