Years of unchecked and indiscriminate breeding, coupled with the recession, have created Britain’s equine crisis, a leading horse organisation says.
The British Horse Society said celebrations to mark the Chinese Year of the Horse were unfolding as Britain’s horses and ponies faced what could be the worst twelve months in living memory.
The society has more equine welfare officers than any other British charity and has helped more than 8000 horses in the last year. It says many more are at risk.
It said horses drowning in flooded fields, starving to death, riddled with worms and lice, poor or non-existent hoof care, or dumped to fend for themselves, sounded more like something from a hundred years ago in the battlefields of the Somme, but it was Britain in 2014.
“The horse has long been a loyal servant to mankind and is an integral part of our heritage,” said Lee Hackett, the society’s director of equine policy.
“We owe him so much yet now, when he needs us, we are spectacularly failing him.”
Hackett cited years of unchecked and indiscriminate breeding and the recession as among the causes of what he called a horrific situation.
“The UK is saturated with thousands of horses with little or no value and a shortage of responsible and knowledgeable owners willing to care for them.
“Together with other charities, we have been doing our best to resolve the situation, but sanctuaries are now beyond full and we are facing crisis point.”
Hackett said new laws in Wales to combat fly grazing provided a glimmer of hope.
“We have to congratulate the Welsh Government for taking such a positive stance and listening to the welfare charities.
“However, Westminster must take notice now. Failing to act is going to lead to more horses suffering in England and that is unacceptable. We need our politicians to be proactive, not complacent. Britain is supposed to be a nation of animal lovers.
“We are entering the Chinese Year of the Horse. Let’s make it the year when we all stand together and really make a difference to British horses.”
The society, with a membership of more than 78,000, urged anyone able to offer a home to a horse or pony to do so through a charity.