The British Horse Society (BHS) has issued fresh calls for members of the public to not to feed horses after the death of a pony in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Welsh section A gelding Lightning suffocated after being fed raw potato by walkers last month (17 January).

His owner says the walkers ignored signs on the fence instructing them not to feed the horses.

The BHS launched its #BeHorseAware campaign in April to raise awareness of the suffering that horses and owners can go through as a result of inappropriate feeding.

It shared the results of research conducted by the University of Bristol, which found that more than three quarters of owners surveyed found that their horses were fed without their permission, and 83% of those responsible were families.

With more people taking to the countryside during the third COVID-19 lockdown, 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.

Preliminary results from the Bristol survey, completed by 1,017 people last year, revealed more than half of owners found their horses had been fed more frequently since the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The survey also found that nearly a third of horses became unwell as a result, with half of these needing veterinary treatment. Almost a third of those that required treatment did not make a full recovery and 16% died or had to be put down.

The BHS is offering the following advice to those enjoying the countryside:

  • Do not feed horses as any type of food can cause them to become extremely unwell or even kill them
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Keep your dog on a lead as they may startle horses, which can cause injury
  • If you see a horse in distress, alert the nearest farm or yard or check for a sign with owner’s detail on

The charity has produced free signs for owners to place around their fields warning the public not to feed their horses.

These are available for download at

“The BHS is urging members of the public to take notice of our #BeHorseAware campaign and not feed horses in fields as this can cause serious, potentially life-threatening illness,” said Gemma Stanford, Director of Welfare at the BHS.

“We believe many people act with no malicious intent and at this time of year members of the public think that they are helping a hungry horse. However, they are unaware of the timings at which owners feed their horses and the risks that certain foods or grass cuttings can pose.

“If members of the public feel that a horse is being mistreated or underfed, we would ask them to contact the BHS welfare helpline for advice.

“We also encourage horse owners to download free 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.”