The Worsening Plight of Horse Welfare in the UK

Sue Burton, founder of Remus Horse Sanctuary in Essex, has been spending time meeting with other horse welfare groups and with Brentwood Borough Council and Thurrock Council  to discuss the escalating problems of horse welfare in the area, including pregnant, tethered mares having to give birth on chains.

Sue Burton and her colleagues witnessed the now common-place scenes of horses left in the most appalling conditions. Of the three in the accompanying picture, two could walk off to the dry grassy area beyond, whereas the other was tethered – it has access to hay but no dry area in which to lay. Hundreds of horses literally live in quagmires and their lives are worthless – so many would be better off not being born into it.

Sue said “we probably saw over 100 horses and just looking into their eyes turns my stomach every time, but I can’t just walk away. These horses aren’t designed for this sort of life. Yes they cope with it as we would cope with being in a prison, but these animals should be roaming flight animals with a gregarious nature who can interact and mutually groom their herd members – not spend their life tied by their necks to the ground.”

Sue also reports that some of these same horses were heavily pregnant and giving birth on chains. She ponders if this “can really be acceptable in this day and age when we have the ability to send men to the moon but we can let innocent living creatures suffer like this? There is something very wrong in our society.”

The horse welfare crisis in this country is getting worse and the scenes witnessed are replicated the length and breadth of the country. There can be no excuse for turning a blind eye and allowing this suffering to continue. Horses on tethering chains with no food, no water, no access to the five freedoms and no hope in their sad eyes.

The ‘five needs’ are a fundamental part of The Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the animal owner’s ‘Duty of Care’ in British Law.  The five needs are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  2. Freedom from discomfort.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress.

Sue has asked that people keep a close eye on horses in their area and report any that they are concerned about. That horse owners take responsibility for their horses and ensure they have all they need in this inclement weather. Anyone wishing to help Remus in their work can do so by making a donation to the Sanctuary at Little Farm, Buttsbury, Nr Ingatestone, Essex CM4 9NZ or by telephoning: 01277 356191.

For further information or to participate in the Remus Welfare Watch scheme, browse or contact Sue Burton on tel: 01277 356191.  Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Winter Feed Appeal can do so via

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