The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is investing £15,000 into rehoming charity Horses4Homes. The subsidy comes through Hoof, the BEF’s participation programme, which aims to enable more people to ride regularly.

“[This is] a great way for people who have the right skills and resources to get closer to owning a horse in a fully supported environment,” said Maggie Still, head of participation at the BEF.

The partnership’s goal is to rehome 200 horses with people riding at least once a week, but there is no time limit — “driving targets would never compromise quality”, says the BEF.

The charity has rehomed 140 horses since its launch last year, but around half are unsuitable for riding.

Animal charities have raised concerns that websites selling horses compromise welfare (news, 12 September), with horses either being sold for meat or going to owners with no experience or facilities.

However, Horses4Homes’ manager, Rebecca Evans — vice chair of the National Equine Welfare Council — believes her online application process is “the strongest system out there”. Horses cannot be resold and a bespoke contract means any flouting of the rules could end in court.

“We screen both sides and if people aren’t transparent we will reject them,” she said. “Applicants have to pay £10 to register, answer 44 questions, verify phone numbers and permit home checks — an unscrupulous buyer won’t go through that.”

Similarly, the seller has to answer detailed questions, and provide passport numbers and vet details, to allow the horse’s full history to be assessed.

“There are many misguided people out there,” added Ms Evans, citing someone who applied to keep a thoroughbred in her back garden. “We aim to make the rehoming process safe and less stressful for the horse and owners.”

World Horse Welfare deputy chief executive Tony Tyler commended this initiative in a climate where some 7,000 horses need rehoming.

“But it is so important to try the horse before taking it on to ensure the best possible match,” he stressed.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (17 October, 2013)