The British Horse Society (BHS) is issuing a warning to members of the public to not feed any horses they may encounter whilst out and about.

With more people taking to the countryside during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BHS has been made aware of instances where horses have been seriously injured, made extremely ill or in some cases having died due to the public feeding the horse or through actions such as leaving gates open.

Alan Hiscox, director of welfare at The British Horse Society said: “The BHS is urging members of the public not to feed horses in fields as this can cause serious illness and be potentially life threatening.

“We believe many people act with no malicious intent and are simply unaware of the risks that certain foods or grass cuttings can pose to horses. We encourage horse owners to download signs the BHS has produced warning the public not to feed their horse. The greater the awareness of the issue, the more likely people are to change their behaviour in the future.”

The BHS is offering the following advice to the public:

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 a space and avoid coming between mothers and their young

If you see a horse in distress, alert the nearest farm/yard or check for a sign with owner’s detail on.

The BHS has produced signs for horse owners to place around their fields warning the public not to feed their horses. These are available for download here.

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