Almost one in five horse owners are having to consider selling their horse, sharing their horse or, even putting their horse down, because of rising costs, the results of a recent survey have revealed.

The cost of living survey conducted by a group of equine welfare charities and organisations involved more than 8,000 individuals, answering questions like, ‘What changes, if any, have you seen in horse care costs in the last year’ and, ‘What changes have you made, or are considering, to save money?’.

The data suggests that many owners are prioritising caring for their horses over caring for themselves. Just under 20% of respondents said they had cut expenditure on horse care, while almost 50% said they had cut expenditure in other areas of their life to help pay for their horses’ care.

Ninety percent said they have experienced increases in the price of horse feed, forage, bedding and fuel with the biggest ongoing concerns around the price of feed, forage and veterinary care.

“NEWC has been a united voice on equine welfare matters for over three decades and member organisations from across the equine sector have seen for themselves how sharply horse care costs have risen in recent months,” said Carolyn Madgwick, Chair of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), of which all the charities and organisations are members.

“In December 2022 and January 2023, a small group of members, led by Redwings Horse Sanctuary, conducted this survey on our behalf to gather evidence, share that information with the United Kingdom and devolved governments, and identify what advice and support may be helpful.

“The high number of responses to the survey – more than 8,000 – shows how important this issue is for many people and the findings indicate that the impact of these financially challenging times is being felt across the whole of the UK. Sadly, the situation is only going to worsen with the interest rate increase announced last week, which is sure to have a huge impact on a lot of owners.”

A second survey, conducted by World Horse Welfare on behalf of NEWC, asked equine welfare establishments about their experiences.

Almost half (50%) of the 36 centres who completed the survey will minimise the number of equines they take in and implement stricter selection criteria for these equines, with just under 25% saying that they will stop taking in new equines altogether.

“It is a deeply worrying time for our members, who know they are often the last hope for equines in need,” Carolyn said. “While only a small number of horse owners said they had already reached a point where they were unable to meet their horses’ basic care needs, many owners are having to reduce their routine preventative healthcare practices, increasing the risk of issues arising that they may struggle to afford to address.

“There is also clear concern among many more about the effect of continued financial pressures through 2023. The number of owners struggling to maintain their horses’ welfare will only increase if the current economic climate continues into a second winter season, as it looks like it will.

“We’ll be monitoring the situation closely over the coming months and devising ways to provide targeted advice and support where possible. Follow-up surveys are planned for later this year to assess the continued impact of living costs on horses, their owners and welfare establishments.”

Both reports can be found on the NEWC website.

Advice for horse owners on Cutting Costs Not Care can be downloaded for free from the NEWC website.

Lead image of Redwings’ Jennie and Viennese

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