In the UK equine welfare charities strive to investigate huge numbers of reported welfare cases and the number of horses being rescued and taken into centres and sanctuaries across the UK is increasing, with many of the centres full to capacity (National Equine Welfare Council).
The reason so many horses and ponies’ welfare standards are so poor varies, but economics and overbreeding are cited as important factors.
In considering provisions that should be made for horses and ponies to avoid unnecessary suffering and to promote good welfare, the Five Freedoms should be referred to:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to express normal behaviour, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
How can education help?
Education plays a crucial role in improving equine welfare. A sound knowledge and understanding of horse management not only directly improves the welfare of horses, but can be passed on to others, to the benefit of more animals, further afield. Sadly many of those who neglect their animals don’t actively seek out educational courses in order to improve their knowledge but there are excellent free sources of information available.
One example is the “Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids”. This provides clear welfare guidance and is available to download: http://www.nationalequinewelfarecouncil.co.uk/www/newc/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/England-defra-cop-horse-091204.pdf
The many excellent welfare organisations offer free advice on horse care but can also be contacted if you have concerns about a horse or pony’s welfare:
- British Horse Society (BHS)
- World Horse Welfare (WHW)
- Horses and Ponies Protection Association (HAPPA)
- Bransby Horses
- Redwings Horse Sanctuary
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
- Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)
- National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC)
For those who wish to study the subject of horse management, perhaps with a view to providing a knowledgeable, secure new home to a rescued horse or pony, The Open College of Equine Studies offers a range of courses, many of which can be studied from home.