Countryside walkers warned not to feed horses after deaths *H&H Plus*

  • As an increasing number of people take to the countryside for their daily exercise while lockdown is in place, we seek advice on how to tackle the associated problems from the British Horse Society...

    Advice is available to owners concerned that members of the public are feeding their horses during lockdown after a series of injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

    H&H has reported online of two horses found dead this month after walkers used their field to picnic in, and an elderly mare and a young gelding who needed emergency vet treatment after they were fed a potato and an unidentified substance respectively. A two-year-old colt suffered serious wounds when gates were left open and a stallion was able to access his field, while another mare – owned by a nurse working 14-hour shifts – was badly injured when her field mates attacked her while walkers were feeding them vegetable peelings.

    Owners concerned have reported an increase in footfall as people who do not usually use footpaths, and may not know how to behave in the countryside, are out and about for their daily exercise during lockdown.

    “No one’s saying don’t walk but please, have some common sense,” said Carrie Chapple, owner of Teddy who was found tangled in a fence after her gates were left open. “Don’t trespass, don’t feed animals or litter, and shut gates.

    “This was totally unnecessary – I’m not employed at the moment either because of the virus and didn’t need the vet’s bill – and I just hope this raises some awareness.

    “If it makes even one person think twice, that’s a good thing.”

    Rachel Eaton, whose cob colicked after she had seen a number of walkers feeding her horses apples, despite the fact they had been asked not to, is now using a sign sent from her vets and bearing the practice name, explaining that the horses are under veterinary treatment and extra food could kill them.

    “I feel this message has got to get out to the public,” she told H&H. “They saw a very muddy field with horses in it who are very friendly but I was trying to manage their weight. All this good work was being undone by the ‘kindness’ of many, many strangers.”

    The British Horse Society (BHS) is urging the public not to feed horses, owing to the risk of serious illness and death.

    BHS welfare director Alan Hiscox told H&H: “We believe many people act with no malicious intent and are simply unaware of the risks certain foods or grass cuttings can pose for horses. If you are concerned the public are feeding your horse, call the BHS Helpline on 02476 840517 for guidance and advice.

    “You may also want to consider polite notices requesting people not to feed the horses with an explanation, as the greater the awareness of the issue, the more likely people are to change behaviour.”

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