Serious welfare problems occur on a quarter of all livery yards in the UK and the worst offenders appear to be DIY yards. That’s the shocking news from a survey released exclusively to H&H by a leading equine charity.
“The results of this survey are very concerning. Basic levels of welfare are not being offered to clients of some yards,” said Jo White of World Horse Welfare, which carried out the survey between April 2008 and April 2009.
One in 10 of the 622 respondents said horses had been deprived of either food or water on their livery yard, and a quarter said there were dangerous items like farm machinery or poisonous plants in their horses’ grazing.
Six per cent said they had witnessed violent abuse of horses and seven per cent said their yard had been the subject of a welfare complaint to the authorities in the past year.
The majority of incidents appear to take place on DIY yards and World Horse Welfare is reviewing the data to see if this is the case.
Vet Ben Mayes, who is part of a livery yard working group for the horse industry, said many Sussex and Surrey yards are moving to DIY livery to cater for credit-crunched clients.
He said: “If, as it seems, the majority of problems are at DIY yards this is a concerning trend.
“It is very likely that people without much knowledge are moving horses away from yards where there are trained and experienced staff and are now in sole control of their animals.”
The survey is part of a dossier of evidence being compiled by the horse industry to call for regulation of livery yards from Defra and the Welsh and Scottish governments.
Chairman of the working group, vet Chris House, said: “There has never been a survey of this kind before. The results suggest that maybe a quarter of our livery yards are not good.”
He is particularly concerned about yards with poisonous plants or hazards in grazing areas and was shocked so many respondents had witnessed abuse.
The committee was created in the wake of the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, when Defra announced it would not implement its plan to regulate livery yard until at least 2009.
She said: “I think they are an even bigger concern. It’s very important we regulate all people who look after horses for someone else.”
Mike Richardson, who runs a livery yard in Cheshire, said he fully supported yard licensing.
He said: “I understand why people offer DIY livery but I think many bring down the standard of livery provision.”
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (26 November, ’09)