‘It’s a myth horse owners are well-off’: ‘shocking’ welfare case shows current reality

  • It is a myth that all horse owners are well-off, a charity has warned, as it believes the cost-of-living crisis is having a “profound” effect on equine welfare.

    The Mare and Foal Sanctuary has shared the story of Andalusians Hugo and Gabriel, who were found very underweight, with sores and riddled with lice, last June.

    “It’s unusual to find such beautiful Andalusian horses in this state, but this situation is a familiar one for The Mare and Foal Sanctuary,” a spokesman for the charity said.

    The sanctuary’s care lead Rosy Lewis said the team worked hard to secure a good outcome for Hugo and Gabriel, with help from the RSPCA as their welfare worsened. Both were signed over to the charity.

    “The pair were in urgent need of sanctuary,” she said. “They were both malnourished. Hugo had scarring and sores across his body, particularly over his prominent pelvic bones, stifle, elbow and shoulder, but also over his ribs.

    Gabriel before

    “All four of his hooves were overgrown and needed treatment. He was very nervous whenever we needed to handle him. Gabriel was even more nervous than Hugo. In particular, he was extremely reluctant to have his limbs handled. His hooves were overgrown and chipped in places. His mane was very matted. Gabriel was also riddled with lice.”

    Ms Lewis said the charity often sees complicated situations but this was a “shocking case”.

    “Hugo and Gabriel’s situation shows that when an owner’s personal circumstances change unexpectedly caring for equines can become an overwhelming task,” she said. This is why we exist.

    “It’s a myth that all horse owners are financially well off. We know that many are struggling at the moment and are sacrificing their own wellbeing to continue to care for their horses. Owners who are in this precarious position are the most at risk of unintentionally neglecting the welfare of their animals and themselves. Costs are skyrocketing. We know that our own costs for feed and everyday welfare alone have gone up considerably.”

    The sanctuary is at capacity, and its outreach team is dealing with many ongoing cases; 111 at the end of March. Last year it was approached to find space for 89 horses but only had space for 30.

    “This spring we need to rehome the horses that are ready to make space for new arrivals,” Ms Lewis said. “Our welfare outreach and sanctuary care teams are working hard through a difficult time to achieve this, but we need help from our incredible supporters so we can continue to provide lifelong care for horses like Hugo and Gabriel.”

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