Equine charities told H&H they are “very concerned” by a significant increase in the number of welfare calls over the past few months.

They say this could be blamed on the harsh winter and poor grass this summer, as well as the tough economy.

“We have received twice as many welfare calls this August than in 2012,” said Lee Hackett of the British Horse Society (BHS).

“Calls in August were 50% up on those in December and November last year, when we would expect them to be higher. If this winter is harsh, we worry how we will cope.”

He added that this is the first year that the number of emaciated horses reported to the charity had not declined over the summer.

“This is a real worry, as we generally find that there is a drop in the number of cases in summer — grass is more plentiful and horses are usually in better condition than over the winter,” he said.

“We also had an alarming number of complaints about horses with no access to water or shelter.”

World Horse Welfare has received a 28% increase in welfare calls this summer compared with last.

From June through to August 2012, the charity had 164 calls about underweight horses; this year it was up to 210.

World Horse Welfare’s Debbie Graver said she is not surprised.

“With the inevitable effects of a bad winter, we were under no illusion that we were going to see more horses coming out of the winter skinnier. Therefore horses were still going to be underweight during the summer, as everything was slow to pick up,” she said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (5 September 2013).