Keeping our horses and ponies safe this winter

The New Year generally brings colder weather and, as well as giving top class care to our Sanctuary residents, there are many more horses and ponies out there who are not so lucky and who we also need to keep an eye on.

The horse welfare crisis in the UK has been escalating for many years and our countrywide Welfare Watch aims to deliver assistance to horses in crisis in and around Essex and the South East of England. At this time of year, we struggle to respond to all of the reports we receive from members of the public; we just cannot physically be everywhere we are needed – and it comes at great cost! Will you donate to our Winter Feed Appeal?

We’ve put together this simple five-step checklist, designed for everyone to refer to before contacting us, so that we can all work together to help more horses and ponies at this time of year. Why not print a copy and save it to hand?

  1. Keep safe yourself. This is the most important thing: first of all, horses can be unpredictable and so you must always put your own safety first, secondly if you don’t know the owner of the land, you could be trespassing.
  2. Make yourself aware of the Five Freedoms (see below) to help you decide the nature of the problem.
  3. Collect information about the horse(s) you are concerned about and fill in our online form. The form will ask you for:
    • The nature of the problem in line with the Five Freedoms
    • Supporting photographs, if possible, to demonstrate the nature and scale of the problem and so that we can prioritise the visits
    • Horse(s) details including how many, gender, breed, colour and age (if known) and also horse(s) owner’s details, if known
    • The landowner’s details, if known
    • The location of the horses
    • Your contact details
  4. If it is an emergency situation, contact the RSPCA immediately on 0300 1234 999.
  5. If it is safe to do so, take the horse(s) some hay and water until further help is sought.

The Five Freedoms

There are many reasons why a horse may be distressed or need assistance. We’ve chosen to align our Welfare Watch with the ‘Five Freedoms’ identified by The Animal Welfare Act 2006, which enshrines the animal owner’s ‘Duty of Care’ in British Law:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst – the animal has little or no access to fresh water and/or food.
  • Freedom from discomfort – the animal does not have somewhere to lie down or gain shelter or is exposed to extreme weather conditions.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease – the animal clearly shows disease, an untreated injury or perhaps severely overgrown hooves.
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour – the animal is tethered incorrectly and/or does not have sufficient space or proper facilities and living conditions.
  • Freedom from fear and distress – abandoned animals, those subject to dog attacks, low flying aircraft, or similar, or those suffering from any of the above.

Remember, it is really important that you send us photographs of the horses, ponies or donkeys in need so that we can prioritise our visits and their care.

Download the form here.

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