A new association has been launched to support the owners of non-ridden equines.

The group was conceived by horsemanship practitioner Vicky Jayne Yates, who was looking to share ideas after her horse had to be retired at the age of seven.

She initially launched a Facebook page in May this year, but had so much interest that she decided to set up the not-for-profit Non-Ridden Equine Association UK at the beginning of August. Membership is free.

“My husband and I bought Kez, a lovely Irish cob, to share but within a really short period of time we could tell something wasn’t quite right. Eventually, he got sent to Newmarket where he was diagnosed with problems with his supraspinous ligament and related changes in his hocks,” Vicky explained.

“We decided we love him so much that he’s never going anywhere, but he can’t be ridden anymore. We have a lot of clients and friends in the same situation, so I set up a Facebook page which now has more than 3000 members, even though we’ve never promoted it.

“It’s a mix of people who are like ourselves and have horses they can’t ride, and some who have horses that are rideable, but choose not to.”

Vicky says that the group share ideas about activities that they can do with non-ridden horses — including agility and online showing.

“You can have a lot of fun with a non-ridden horse, and a lot of people do own horses for reasons other than riding. The group has really helped demonstrate the width of why we own horses,” she said. “Some people find it quite therapeutic, as well as having health benefits, and we also have people who do professional therapy work with horses.”

She said that her own horse loved to go out for in-hand walks and had learned tricks, was able to retrieve things, played football and worked at liberty.

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“We’re hoping it’s with ideas like these that our website’s resource library will really come into its own. We’ve had a lot of knowledgeable people contribute their expertise,” she added.

The group also has also debated the ethics of owning non-ridden horses, as well as discussing attitudes within the horse world.

“One thing that has really jumped out at me is how people felt like it was a dirty secret to keep horses as non-ridden, and they faced ridicule and criticism, especially on livery yards,” Vicky said.

“Everyone in the group is very supportive of each other, and we understand that sometimes people are facing some really difficult, heartbreaking decisions and people try to offer good advice.”

Vicky said that in the long term, she hopes that the association could help influence the horse welfare crisis by bringing more value to non-ridden equines.

“We have a rehoming page on our website with links to welfare organisations, but our aim in future to be able to work with them in a closer way — we’d love to create some resource packs to give to them so they can pass the information to potential adoptees and help them place more of these horses,” she said.

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