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Horse swapped for a video game: the reality of the UK's horse crisis

24 Apr 2018


The UK is in the midst of a horse over-population crisis, with too many horses and not enough knowledgeable owners to look after them, resulting in an increase in the number of cases of abandonment and neglect. 

Consequently, horses are passed from owner to owner, with little or no regard for their needs. The British Horse Society is shining a light on the little-known issues facing horses revealing some of the shocking incidents they have come across:

  • One person who had swapped a video game for a horse – they had no prior experience caring for or owning a horse. The British Horse Society was able to offer support, guidance, education and essential healthcare at a BHS Healthcare Clinic.
  • One person had ‘rescued’ a horse but was keeping it in a garage. They had never owned a horse before and had no understanding of the care a horse needs.
  • Male foals dumped at the road side and left for dead, because they are considered worthless - The British Horse Society helped rescued one foal, that was just days old, and had been left for dead
  • Ill or injured horses abandoned because owners can’t afford the vet bills, or to have them euthanised. This means landowners or councils have to step in and take the brunt of the costs, to have the horse or carcass removed

The British Horse Society wants to shine a light on the crisis facing horses in the UK, and is encouraging owners to ‘think before they breed’. Every single horse adds to the problem.

Gemma Stanford, Director of Welfare at The British Horse Society said: “Most people don’t see horses on a regular basis, and simply do not know about the huge welfare issues going on. There simply aren’t enough responsible owners to look after these horses, and most sanctuaries and rescue centres are full. Unfortunately, this means horses are treated as cheap commodities and passed from pillar-to-post, sold for quite literally pennies”.

In order to tackle the issue of poor quality horses being bred and to try and prevent the number of horses ending up in a situation where they would need rescuing, The British Horse Society runs proactive Healthcare and Education Clinics, specifically targeting at-risk horses. As part of the clinics, male horses are castrated.

Ms Stanford said: “We truly believe that prevention is better that cure. Our role is to improve welfare through education and we are looking at the long term picture by working with owners to change behaviour. Not only have we prevented potential future foals from suffering, we have immediately improved the welfare of the horses we have been seen at our clinics – so far we have castrated over 370 but we need the funds to help more. We have also had nearly 1000 horses attend for a combination microchipping, passported, worming, foot care and dental care.”

The BHS relies on donations in order to carry out its vital work. For more information, visit

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