Countryfile explores UK’s abandoned horse crisis

  • The UK’s current abandoned horse crisis was investigated by the BBC’s Countryfile programme on Sunday (17 January).

    Presenter Tom Heap interviewed horse owners who illegally graze their animals on land they don’t own and went out with Bristol-based GRC Bailiffs to seize a fly-grazing horse.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 18.33.41This was carried out at night to avoid any repercussions with its owner.

    One horse owner told Mr Heap he “doesn’t see the harm” in keeping horses tethered on land he doesn’t own.

    Another disguised with a mask and brandishing a mallet told the presenter of his anger that bailiffs had seized his horses.

    In the programme Heap accompanied animal welfare inspector Steve Gale on duty in Stockton-On-Tees where they discovered six horses wandering freely on a housing estate.

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    Later they encountered an illegally tethered horse who had worn a perfect circle into the ground after grazing on all the grass the tether allowed it to reach.

    Heap explained how the Control of Horses Act, which came into force last summer, is offering some hope to the crisis.

    The new legislation allows landowners to instantly seize horses found illegally grazing on their land. The rescued horses are either given to charity or put down.

    But Heap discovered that the large costs of rescuing horses – up to £1,500 per horse – is causing some councils to turn a blind eye to horses abandoned in their catchment authority.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 18.34.55Later in the episode there are upsetting scenes of a rescue of a young coloured pony found abandoned with another horse who had died.

    By the time we got to them the friend was dead. It was just bones and lots of maggots… having seen the dead one we were going to move heaven and earth to get (Huckleberry) out of there. He needed to live, and live like a proper equine,” World Horse Welfare’s Jacko Jackson told Heap.

    The pony named Huckleberry has made a full recovery and was shown cavorting about happily at the charity’s Norwich welfare centre at the end of the programme.

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