Horse owners must become much more aware about the risk of disease and how to prevent it. That’s the clear warning from Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, in his Christmas video message.

“Disease does not differentiate between a Grade A showjumper and a pony in someone’s back yard,” he says. He urges everyone to be more vigilant, warning that an outbreak of a serious equine disease in the UK could spell disaster for the country’s horse population.

He also refers to the problems faced by horse owners in looking after their horses as costs spiral. World Horse Welfare’s Great British Horse Survey 2010 revealed that 80 per cent of horse owners worry about the costs of keeping their horses.

The number of equines being taken into the charity’s care has risen by 50 per cent this year, putting enormous pressure on space, and Mr Owers urges anyone who could consider taking one on loan to visit the World Horse Welfare website.

To close, Mr Owers says: “Horses are only here because of us. We choose to breed them, we choose to own them, we derive great enjoyment from them. And horses depend on us to meet all their needs, so we are all responsible for their welfare.”