The owner of a horse who has suffered choke three times says she is at a loss as to how to stop people throwing food into the field.
Linda Sleczka had to call her vet last Tuesday (8 January), when she found her 13-year-old part-thoroughbred mare Mika suffering. Linda told H&H a man who lives near the field, in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, said he had seen a woman feeding crab-apples to Mika and her field companion.
“He had to tell her to stop as she had a bag full of them,” Linda said.
“The next thing, Mika had her head in the wheelbarrow and there was all this green stuff coming out of her nose – it was inches deep – and I realised what had happened.”
Mika had to have antibiotics and bute as she developed a sinus infection after the bout of choke, her third since Linda bought her some four years ago.
There are signs on the field fence and gate asking people not to feed the horses, while another asks people not to give them apples as this could result in cases of choke.
But the signs have had little effect.
“I’ve got to the point where I’m thinking: ‘what do I do now?’” Linda said.
“We have regular visitors – once last summer, I was here for half an hour poo-picking and in that time, six people came to feed Mika. I’ve tried to say only feed whole carrots but people throw crab-apples in, grass cuttings; one man put a whole bucket of windfalls into the field.”
Linda says her visitors also leave their rubbish in the field, such as the bags apples were sold in, and that her friend’s cob who also lives there once broke through the fence while a passer-by was feeding him.
“People are well-meaning, they don’t mean any of this to cause harm, but they have to realise the problems they’re causing,” she said. “The cob could have caused an accident on the road – and would it be my fault if a child got bitten while they were feeding the horses?”
Linda is now planning to install CCTV, and also buy electric fencing to keep the horses back from the field fence.
‘People seem to see a horse and think they can do what they want’
The pair want to raise awareness of the issue among the public
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
“Anything that’s a deterrent as I’ve got to the point where I don’t want people feeding them anything,” she said. “I don’t want to annoy people or upset them, or be patronising, but I need them to realise the dangers of what they’re doing.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people about it and some are very polite, but some argue, and say their granddad or their daughter had a horse and used to give it apples. I have to explain that that’s one horse, and one apple, not a bagful being given to my horse who eats really fast. But I shouldn’t have to argue with people over whether they can feed my horse.
“If people are at my field, I want them to be thinking: ‘am I being watched?’
“This isn’t me being mean, or wanting control; I’m just doing it for the benefit of my horse.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.