Tackling the horse crisis together

A blog by Michael Ward, interim chief executive of the RSPCA

We're facing a horse crisis across England and Wales and it’s never been more apparent than now that equine welfare organisations need to work together.

This week I’m meeting with the chief executives of the nation’s major animal welfare charities that work with horses* so we can get to grips with how we can work together in the most effective way possible, to help more horses, faster.

An opportunity to meet those helping horse welfare

Inspector checking on a horse in a field © RSPCA

The meeting will be a great opportunity for me to get to know those equine charities and their leaders, and find out the vital role each organisation has played so far in tackling the ongoing horse crisis.

But the main reason why I’m looking forward to this meeting, which is being held at the World Horse Welfare Glenda Spooner rescue and rehabilitation centre, is because I’ll see how horses are being rescued and rehabilitated.

I’ll have the chance to speak to the dedicated staff who have cared for those animals and seen them through the most appalling experiences.

Working together to rescue hundreds of horses

There is still a lot of work to be done to tighten up our collaborative work. But, I’m proud to say our horse welfare organisations already work very successfully together, joining up for horse rescues and sharing information about cruelty and neglect.

Inspector caring for horse in a blanket © RSPCA

Last year we rescued over 1300 suffering or abandoned horses, which is 20 percent more than the previous year, which is astonishing!

It’s not just the number of horses in need of our help that is so concerning, but also the long term trends. For example last year of the horses we rescued 30 percent more had been neglected compared to the previous year.

All equine charities are seeing the same trends and we make no secret of the fact that this seemingly never-ending horse crisis has put an enormous strain on all of our resources.

The crisis is bigger than any one of our individual charities or organisations, and so only by continuing to work together, can we solve it.

You may not know it but between horse welfare organisations, a huge amount of close liaison goes on behind the scenes to try and find places for the horses we have no choice but to take into our care, even though most of us are already full.

In some case, hundreds of horses needed to be assessed and microchipped, and if they need to be removed for welfare reasons, they then have to be found a stable, so you can begin to see just how close our joint-working has to be for us all to continue saving horses.

A focus on prevention

Inspector checking on a horse in a field © RSPCA

But what caused the horse crisis?

We have many different theories such as careless over-breeding by owners and the falling price of horses, but this is something I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss this at the meeting.

Putting more resources into preventing the overbreeding of horses will surely help us as achieve our goal of significantly lowering the number of horses at risk of suffering poor welfare.

Prevention is not only in our name, it’s what we have been doing for 193 years. It’s time to stop picking up the pieces and get to the root of the cause.

It’s going to be a huge challenge, that’s for sure, but a very worthwhile one.

Spreading the word about our work

We can only exist and continue to rescue animals with your help and support. You’ll see our dedicated, specialist equine team at events like Badminton, Appleby, Equifest and Your Horse Live spreading the word about their hard work.

Please do go and chat to them, hear about the work they are doing for horses and show them your support – it means a great deal to them, to me and to us as a whole.

*The Animal Health Trust, British Equine Veterinary Association, The Brooke, Bransby Horses, The Horse Trust, The Donkey Sanctuary, Horseworld, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, SPANA and World Horse Welfare (Blue Cross and British Horse Society are not able to attend the meeting but are equally as involved in the collaborative work).

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