Horses are agricultural animals that at the moment are imported into England for food. This puts our farmers at a huge disadvantage and so too the horse population




Gemma enjoys riding at the weekends when she gets the chance.  All horse riders muck in generally, feed and water horses, and groom and exercise them. It is part of the scene unless you can afford a stable manager and the staff to do all of that for you. 


Recently, horse culture has changed from just those that ride horses at the weekends for pleasure, to those that believe horses should be recognised for the end product that they are, and that is food for our tables. It does not make sense to just burn them when they get old. They have been part of agriculture and our diet for thousands of years. So why get all prissy now?


Horses have a wonderful life because for hundreds of years we have used them as transport. Okay, so oxen and even elephants have been used for transport. But horses have been bred for special purposes, such as racing or hauling heavy beer carts. Special outfits were developed for horse owners, where keeping a horse was no longer essential to living, but became more of a status symbol. 


                    "What do you drive darling. Do you like my Lambo?" 

                    "I drive a fiesta, but I've got a horse for weekends."


Once horses became a hobby and a sport, they acquired a new place in society. The Ascot event is testimony to the popularity of horses as an event and commerce all at the same time. Horses are used in films and for stunts. We all love a good cowboy film, which some who disapprove of call "horse operas." Can you imagine a horse singing? Neigh.


Huge business empires were based on betting on who's horse was the fastest. Kings have lost their thrones betting. It's a sad business really and just a cruel as any other sport if you truly believe that pushing an animal to its limit with another animal strapped to its back is not cruel - then you may need to re-evaluate your take on life. Some horses do object to being enslaved like this and are usually put down. One horse objected so much to being ridden that it threw itself backward and tried to crush the jockey. Some people don't know when No, means No.


           "Oh this one is temperamental."

           "Just keep riding it until it breaks."


The operative word is "break." No animal likes being a beast of burden - they have to be broken, their will is what has to give. But then we are all slaves, because we all work to pay taxes to a government that does not work for us. POV





Some of the favorite horses at the sanctuary were Larry and Danny.  It was a treat for people who could not ride to come to Bushy Wood and see the horses.  But, the sanctuary is no longer managed by the Trust and has changed ownership, now being privately operated.


Volunteers loved mixing up all the pony mix with the bran and grooming the horses because they came up lovely and shiny!  Washing little Larry with horse shampoo was really funny because Larry popped the bubbles!! Collecting the chickens eggs was also a laugh for people who don't know how things work in the country.  What most people also liked about Bushy Wood was the people you met there.  Sadly, the enterprise is no longer a sanctuary, more of a hobby. The then manager, Val, is no longer the owner of the site. But all good things must come to an end.





The former Page 3 model posed with horse Octavia as she visited The Horse Refuge in Moons Green, Kent, as she hoped to raise awareness.

The refuge needs £600,000 to save it from being closed down at the end of August, and she wore her own equestrian clothing range for the photo shoot.

While being snapped in the grey jodhpurs and black T-shirt, Octavia got a bit too close to the 32-year-old and rubbed her face against Katie’s leg.

Katie made a statement to the public, saying: ‘Put your hands in your pockets and donate money to the refuge.’

She continued: ‘I’ve come to raise awareness to see if I can get people to help. I expected the horses to be bags of bones but I was surprised at how well kept they are.

‘Please do what you can to help these horses be re-homed and avoid what would be a tragic and very sad end.’







When firemen were called to rescue a one-day-old foal from a river in Essex, they assumed it had strayed from a nearby field. But once they found it struggling to stay upright between 12ft concrete banks, they reached a depressing conclusion: its owner had deliberately left it to drown.

Someone had apparently hurled the tiny piebald cob – a stocky breed popular among travellers and known for its “feathery” legs – from a bridge. The foal, since named Stephen, was spotted by a walker, who alerted the fire brigade. They managed to put it in a makeshift halter and guided it three miles upstream so it could clamber to land. It was treated for hypothermia and given colostrum (a protein-rich milk provided by mares) before it was taken to a horse sanctuary.

The case is not a one-off. Animal welfare organisations are reporting a dramatic rise in the number of abandoned horses. Across the country, more than 400 horses were found wandering in the first four months of this year – three quarters more than in the same period last year. With the owners of a further 7,000 horses untraceable and sanctuaries at “bursting point”, charities say they are struggling to deal with a growing crisis.

Stephen was probably dumped by travellers (another traveller pony was found along the same stretch of river last year), but what makes this crisis different is the number of relatively well-off owners who are abandoning their horses when they lose their jobs.

Nicolas de Brauwere has helped to run Redwings, Britain’s biggest horse sanctuary, for 22 years, but he has never before been asked to take in so many animals. “We’ve never seen a situation where that number of horses came to our door at a time when we’re ill-equipped to help them,” says the 44-year-old vet, who is also chairman of the National Equine Welfare Council. “Until a few years ago, we only had to deal with a few horses that strayed on to the road.. 


“But people have no contingency for managing their horses through a couple of tough years. Some set them free on the mountains in Wales or on Exmoor, thinking that is where they belong. Then this horse runs around, never having fended for itself before.”

In extreme cases, the owners do not bother to find a suitable location. In June, two horses were found wandering along a railway line near Bristol. The nearby fence had been cut deliberately to allow the animals to stray on to the tracks, perhaps in the hope they would be hit by a train and rid the owner of “poor stock”: one of the horses, a thoroughbred colt, had a severe wound to its knee joint. In other instances, a mare was found in an industrial estate in Newcastle and a pony was left to roam the streets in the Norfolk town of Diss before it was spotted, suffering diarrhoea and dehydration.

De Brauwere and his team look after more than 1,300 horses at their headquarters in Norfolk and at nine smaller sanctuaries throughout East Anglia. Few owners, fallen on hard times, contact the charity before they get rid of their horse, he says. “There is a level of embarrassment, particularly among the middle-class horseowners, that they can’t care for their animal,” he explains. “By the time some of them have got the courage to phone us, their situation is extreme, so instead of giving us time to work it out, they’re saying 'the bailiffs have come’ or 'I’ve been thrown off the field, I’ve got to be out by the end of the month’.”

Lucy Higginson, editor of Horse & Hound, confirms that many of the magazine’s readers are struggling to pay for upkeep. “We have come across examples of livery yard dumping, where somebody moves their horse in and provides a false name, address and phone number,” she says. “Then after a week or two they just vanish, leaving the animal on the premises. It is very expensive to keep a horse, and people often don’t realise how much of an undertaking it is.”

The costs have risen sharply in recent years. “We’ve had some diabolical winters in which there has been no grass for them to eat because everything is frozen for a long time. It means horseowners need to buy more grain, just as grain prices are skyrocketing anyway.”

Travellers are also to blame. Uncontrolled breeding programmes have led to a glut of animals, causing the price to fall drastically. At some of the horse fairs frequented by travellers buyers are being offered five horses for £10. Such cost-cutting has made it much less profitable for owners to sell unwanted horses. “If you’re born a boy horse, you’re in trouble,” says de Brauwere. “Male foals are not wanted because they are costly to castrate and cannot produce foals. Then there are injured ponies. The dealer will make a commercial decision that the money needed for vets’ fees would outweigh its value.”

Horses abandoned by travellers are often “fly-grazed”, meaning they are left to graze illegally on public or private land. Charities cannot trace the owners because most travellers have ignored a law requiring all horses to carry a microchip and the national equine database, which linked each microchip to an owner, has been scrapped to save money. Last year, Redwings was called to a field next to Cardiff Airport where 60 ponies had been tethered. No owner was identified, so de Brauwere was forced to find them new homes, taking 23 back to Norfolk himself. “They were all colts that could have been prime stallions but they just weren’t wanted,” he explains. “They had worm damage in their livers and bowels from eating ragwort. But we managed to save them with some very aggressive treatment, which cost close to £1,000 per horse.”

In the far paddock at Redwings, de Brauwere is happy to demonstrate their progress. The ponies – all named after Eighties acts, from Bon Jovi to A-Ha and Wham! – gallop towards him as he approaches, expecting to be fed. “Now they all sleep curled up together. When I came up the drive this morning, these guys were playing chase.”

And what of Stephen, the river foal? He has now been at Redwings for three months and scampers freely about a paddock with Queenie, his surrogate mare. “In nature, if a mare dies the others will allow the foal to suckle from them,” explains de Brauwere as Stephen nibbles at his hand. “It’s a bit like arranged marriages – we don’t always know it will work out. But she’s really bonded with him and has taught him the strict pecking order. She tells him off when he’s been naughty.”

The sanctuary is now full and yet the charity is still getting fresh reports of abandoned horses. “Until last year, I could just phone my boss and she would somehow fix the problem,” de Brauwere says. “But now we are powerless to do any good. We have to stand by the side of a field, just looking at a group of horses that are in desperate need of help. It is heartbreaking.”





We believe every horse, pony and donkey has the right to be part of a loving family where it will be cared for and loved to the end of its life.




The HORSE SANCTUARY TRUST has charitable objects.