Horse charities in Hampshire are desperately trying to rescue increasing numbers of abandoned horses and ponies.
Stables warn they are running out of space to shelter the neglected animals and are demanding politicians step in to avert what they are branding the “worst crisis” in horse and pony welfare for 25 years.
A quadruple whammy of irresponsible breeding, rocketing care bills, severe weather and rock bottom sale prices means that 7,000 animals are at risk of neglect, abandonment, starvation and culling in Britain this winter.
Eastleigh-based charity the Epona Trust is campaigning for stricter controls on horse ownership and wants the Government to make it easier to link strays to their owners by improving the horse passport system.
The charity has witnessed a huge surge of abandoned horses and ponies being brought to its rescue and rehabilitation base at Russels Equestrian Centre in Allington Lane, West End.
Victims include Thomas – an abandoned horse found wandering along the Bursledon railway line just metres from a live rail and another animal called Fred left by his owner to starve.
Both animals were initially rescued by the RSPCA before arriving at the centre, which has found them a permanent home.
Charity chairwoman Carol Boulton, who co-owns the centre, said: “The difficult economic conditions recently have meant people have less money to buy and care for a horse and unfortunately some irresponsible owners dump them.
“Breeders are still producing horses, but there’s just no market for them and this is only making matters worse and putting even more pressure on charities, who are running out of space for all the abandoned animals.”
It costs at least £3,000 a year to properly care for a horse and although local councils have a duty to look after strays many do not have the resources to care for them.
Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton is supporting their campaign and wants the Government to reconsider a tripartite agreement allowing the import and export of vulnerable animals between the UK, Ireland and France without health certificates.
He said: “We must get a handle on this problem before the situation spirals out of control.
“Right now the system just cannot deal with the large numbers of horses being abandoned and charities’ capacity is at breaking point.
“Government and councils need to revisit this issue as a matter of urgency.
“I’d encourage anyone thinking about buying a horse to consider carefully whether they have the resources or time to look after it properly.”
See rspca.org.uk/ allaboutanimals/horses/crisis to support the campaign.