The British Horse Society (BHS) and the British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA) have renewed their plea to owners to act responsibly over the futures of their old or infirm horses.

Both stress that owners should think very carefully before passing on responsibility for well-loved elderly horses and consider all options, including euthanasia if they can no longer afford to keep them.

Lee Hackett from the BHS told H&H: “Anyone who owns a horse — especially an older animal — has an obligation to its long-term welfare.

“It is not an easy decision, but if a horse is not fit and well, we would ask people to consider very carefully before loaning them out.”

BEVA president Chris House said: “Alongside other welfare organisations we have repeated this message a number of times — if a horse is in pain or chronically lame, you have to face up to your responsibilities.

“Not many people have the capacity to keep their horses in old age. In some circumstances, having your horse put to sleep is the moral thing to do.”

H&H receives a steady trickle of calls from owners who place unrideable horses on loan only for them to disappear.

This week H&H was contacted by Norfolk horse owner Emma Hitchcox who put her elderly mare Lady and 10-year-old Gwen, who has kissing spines, on loan to a woman who said her name was Clare Carter.

The case is now the subject of a police investigation for theft as Ms Carter gave Ms Hitchcox a false name and address and the horses have disappeared.

By searching the National Equine Database, Ms Hitchcox found Lady has since been re-passported.

“I had rescued some horses from slaughter in France but I could not afford to keep them all, so I put Gwen and Lady on loan,” Ms Hitchcox told H&H.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (22 January, ’09). For an update see 29 January ’09 issue.