Equine charity issues warning to the public to stop feeding horses


The British Horse Society (BHS) are calling for members of the public not to feed any horses they may encounter whilst out and about.

This comes as the equine charity have been made aware of incidents where horses have been left seriously injured, made extremely ill or in some cases died due to the public feeding a horse or through actions such as leaving gates open.

This sadly became the reality for Rachel and her beloved pony Samson who was left extremely ill after being fed by passers-by: “I was terrified that we would lose Samson. He was only a foal and in so much pain; it was heart breaking. He presented with severe abdominal pain, which can be fatal in horses. This led to him dripping in sweat, shaking, rolling, and critically, getting stuck lying down against the stable walls over and over again.

He was treated at home but did not improve, so the decision was made to take him in to the hospital in case he needed surgery. Taking him to the hospital, and not knowing if he would make it, was horrendous.”

Incidents such as this one are a stark reminder of the suffering that horses and owners can go through as a result of inappropriate feeding. The BHS’s #BeHorseAware campaign was launched to raise awareness of this and to offer helpful advice that will support and act as a reminder for all those enjoying the great outdoors this Easter.

Gabrielle Madders, Horse Care & Welfare Project & Partnership Lead at The British Horse Society adds: “We believe many people act with no malicious intent and we understand that the current wet weather conditions have been difficult on terrain; members of the public may think that they are helping a horse. However, they will be unaware of the timings at which owners feed their horses and the risks that certain foods or grass cuttings can pose.

We strongly urge members of the public to consider this and the devastating real-life heartache that has been a reality for many horse owners. If anyone does see a horse that they feel is being mistreated or underfed, we would ask them to contact the BHS Horse Care and Welfare helpline for advice.”

The BHS offers the following advice to ensure we can all continue to enjoy being out and about in a safe, responsible way.

Although feeding horses may seem harmless, it is important not to due to the following reasons:

  • Any type of food, grass cuttings or any other plants can cause horses to become extremely unwell or even kill them
  • Fighting between horses could break out and cause an injury
  • Horses may mistake your fingers for food and accidentally nip them

If you cross land with a right of way where horses are kept, the above points will be applicable but also ensure you:

  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Keep to the right of way
  • Take your litter home
  • Keep your dog on a lead and bag and bin your dog’s mess
  • Give horses lots of space
  • If you see a horse in distress, alert the nearest farm/yard or check for a sign with the owner’s details on.

The BHS also offers clear recommendations for horse owners, which includes putting up polite signs* requesting people to not feed their horses and providing an explanation as to why this is important.

To learn more about the #BeHorseAware campaign, and to download your free sign visit: bhs.org.uk/behorseaware