We Brits are famous for our love of horses. When the horse meat scandal hit not long ago, when we discovered that we had been inadvertently been consuming animals that we consider pets, we were rightly outraged. But we are an island of finite space and resources and it would seem – from the number of horses awaiting adoption through legitimate charities such as the RSPCA and countless adverts for cheap or free horses on social media – that we have more horses than we can house.
If you see an advert for a horse that is being sold for a nominal fee or given ‘free to a good home’ you should ask yourself these questions:
- Why is it being given away?
- Who owns it?
- What condition is it in at the moment?
- What is its history?
Many horses that are being given away by private individuals may be living in poor conditions; they may be lame or old; they may be unsuitable for riding. All horses are expensive to own (once you take into account bedding, food, stable fees, farrier costs and vet fees to name but a few expenses) and a horse’s current owners may be desperate to pass it on simply because they can no longer afford to care for it. But how will you know that you can give it a better home, without knowing its past and current health and temperament?
It is far better to adopt through a legitimate adoption service run by a charity such as the RSPCA, which has plenty of horses for you to choose from. The RSPCA ‘Rehome a horse’ online help staff to know which of their horses would suit your individual circumstances (such as, which horses would be happy to be kept in a paddock with other horses and which would need to be stabled separately). They will also be able to tell you the health condition of any of their horses. The horses will have been treated for parasites and given all appropriate medical treatment to get them to a standard whereby they can be safely adopted. The RSPCA will also have all the necessary paperwork to enable you to legally own your horse.
Many private sales or ‘adoptions’ go through without horse passports ever being produced or verified, meaning that the sale is not legal and that the buyer could face hefty fines and prosecution. The trouble is that people will continue to allow their horses to breed. Whilst thoroughbreds and race horses may fetch a decent price, other horses are practically worthless and if their current owners cannot look after them they are just another horse without a home. This is such a sad situation and the only way to stop it is to educate people about the importance of not buying or adopting horses privately and of not allowing their horses to breed indiscriminately. This will take time and meanwhile you can do your part – adopt through the RSPCA if you want a horse and know that you can care for it for the rest of its life.