Getting out and about in your local area or further afield and enjoying everything the great outdoors has to offer may mean you’re more likely to encounter horses whether that’s in the fields or when accessing paths that run alongside equine paddocks.
Although it may seem harmless to approach horses and feed them, the BHS continues to receive ongoing reports of horses being seriously injured, made extremely ill, and sadly in some cases, having died because members of the public have fed them, put grass cuttings in their field, or because of actions such as not closing a gate.
Our #BeHorseAware message aims to spread awareness of the potential deadly consequences of feeding horses that are not your own so that we can all continue to enjoy the outdoors in a safe, responsible way.
It is important not to feed horses because:
- Horses may mistake your fingers for food and accidentally bite them
- Any type of food, grass cuttings or any other plants can make horses extremely ill or even kill them
- Fighting between horses could break out and cause an injury
Jonathan Ruiz from Oakham Veterinary Hospital talks through some of the experiences they have dealt with, which have seen horses being made extremely ill, and sadly in some cases, having died as a result of being fed by passers-by.
We advise to:
- Keep your dog on a lead and bag and bin dog mess
- Give horses lots of space and avoid coming between mothers and their young
- Leave gates and property as you find them
- Always take your litter home
- If you see a horse in distress alert the nearest farm/yard or check for a sign with the owner’s details on
- Keep to the right of way
Beth’s world was torn apart when she had to make the agonising decision to put her horse to sleep as a direct consequence of a member of the public feeding her horse.
Beth wants to share her experience to raise awareness of the dangers of feeding horses due to the devastating impact it can have on the animal and their owners.
Read Beth's story
“Two years ago I lost my pride and joy because someone fed my horse something. My neighbour had seen someone feeding her food from out of a bag but like other non-horse folk, he didn’t understand the consequences and understandably didn’t tell me straight away.
Within the space of a week, my strong-minded mare turned to skin and bone. She had severe diarrhoea, swollen lumps all over her body and I was having to watch the life drain out of her as I desperately held on to the hope that all the medication she was being given, would fix her. The vet attended almost every day to monitor her and complete blood tests. In the end, it became too much for her as she could barely walk, and her immune system effectively shut down.
I had to make the worst decision to have her put to sleep knowing it could have all been prevented.
“Nothing in this world can bring her back. But what I can do in her memory, is to educate members of the public to understand that feeding an animal that is not theirs, is not acceptable. It may seem harmless to feed them treats, but please be mindful that it could have severe consequences and could rip someone else’s world apart, like it did to mine.”
Horse and landowners – download your free warning signs
The BHS has four free signs available for you to download and place around your yard:
- Don’t feed the horses (version 1)
- Don’t feed the horses (version 2)
- Be Horse Aware (Scotland)
- Be Horse Aware (public rights of way)
We also offer an A4 plastic sign with pre-drilled holes for easy display in our shop.