A researcher looking into the feeding of horses by members of the public hopes to raise awareness of the issue, and help prevent future equine illnesses or fatalities.
Amelia Cameron has launched an online questionnaire, aiming to find out more about the issue, having become aware of a number of incidents this year.
The research masters student at the University of Bristol, who is preparing to start a PhD in equine welfare at the University of Nottingham, wants to find out in which situations horses are at most risk of becoming ill as a result of being fed by members of the public.
She told H&H that as part of her thesis into grazing restriction, she heard from people whose ponies’ grazing muzzles had been removed, or cut off.
“Then I saw a number of H&H articles, and social media posts, about horses’ being fed without the owners’ permission, and getting ill,” Amelia said.
“During and after lockdown, there seemed to be so many more reports of horses’ becoming really ill; I guess with people using footpaths more, and it seemed to be becoming more of an issue.”
The questionnaire, which went live on 13 August, asks respondents’ locations and their experiences. It covers issues such as signs, whether they have been put up in response to incidents or not, whether they have had any effect, and the behaviour of anyone confronted while feeding other people’s horses.
Amelia said her aim is to publish the research in a scientific journal.
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“The more respondents my questionnaire gets, the higher the chances are that I will be able to produce high-quality research that can be used towards raising awareness and preventing future cases of horses becoming unwell or dying due to being fed inappropriately by members of the public,” she said.
Amelia added that she is also asking people’s opinions on whether the Countryside Code should be updated to specifically state that no animals should be fed without owners’ permission.
“That’s something I think should be included,” she said. “It would be good to spread awareness to as many people as possible.
“Hopefully we can prevent horses from suffering unnecessarily.”
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