Make sure your horse or pony is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Things you should do
- Carefully check your horse for signs of injury and illness every day and make sure someone responsible does this if you are away.
- Consult a vet immediately if you suspect that your horse is in pain, ill or injured.
- In conjunction with your vet, maintain an effective worm control programme.
- In conjunction with your vet, maintain a programme of vaccination against equine influenza and tetanus. You may also consider vaccinating against equine herpes virus.
- You should learn to recognise lameness in horses. If your horse becomes lame it should not be worked and you should consult your vet promptly.
- You should inspect hooves daily, including the underside of the foot. Your horse’s hooves should be inspected by a farrier registered with the Farriers’ Registration Council every four to six weeks, even if the horse is unshod.
- Your horse’s teeth should be checked by an equine vet or qualified equine dental technician at least annually and more frequently in older horses.
- All tack should be checked regularly for proper fit by an experienced and knowledgeable person, and should be properly maintained for the safety of horse and rider.
- Harsh, potentially painful training methods and aids should be avoided. The RSPCA recommends that only positive reward-based methods should be used.
- When you transport your horse, make sure it is comfortable and safe at all times.
- Ensure the size and temperature of any place you leave your horse (including a trailer or horsebox) is appropriate.
- Before allowing horses to breed, seek the advice of your vet to ensure they are suitable for breeding in terms of their health and personalities. You must ensure provisions have been made to care for both parents and offspring.
- Before buying deciding to buy a horse, find out what health and behaviour problems it has or may be prone to, for instance as a result of its breed, how it has been bred and how it has been cared for. Always check with your vet if you are unsure about anything.
- Only use medicines and feed additives specifically recommended for your horse by experts; they are potentially dangerous if given to the wrong animal. Use and store them according to the instructions.
- Consider taking out insurance to ensure your horse is covered if it needs veterinary treatment.
- Horses feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people.
- Individual horses show pain and stress in different ways.
- You must also meet your horse's environmental and behavioural needs. Read more about horses' behaviour and how to provide a suitable environment.
- A change in the way a horse behaves can be an early sign that it is ill or suffering.
- Horses are prone to infestation with parasites such as worms and lice and are vulnerable to a range of infectious diseases and other illnesses.
- Horses’ hooves grow continuously. Overgrown or unbalanced hooves can cause severe discomfort and may cause significant damage to the internal structure of the feet, legs and back.
- Horses’ teeth erupt through the gums continuously. As they wear they may develop hooks and sharp edges which can result in painful injuries to the mouth and tongue and prevent the horse chewing food properly, which may result in digestive disorders.
- Poorly fitting tack can cause injury and pain, as can poor riding technique or riding by people too heavy for the horse. Back pain is common in horses and can cause bucking and rearing.
- Whips, spurs, severe bits and other 'training aids' can inflict considerable discomfort, pain and injury.
- Transport can be stressful for horses and can cause illness, particularly when transported under poor conditions and for long durations.
- Certain breeds are particularly prone to inherited disorders and diseases.