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Bradford horse owners who need reining in
Tethered Horses have become a concern in Bradford and account for a large number of calls RSPCA inspector Rachel Opyrsk receives on a daily basis.
The issue was highlighted on Friday when the Telegraph & Argus reported that five-year-old Harlie Thompson had undergone life-saving surgery after being kicked in the head by a horse which was tethered near a children’s play area at Buttershaw Beck.
Bradford Council, which is working with the police on tracking down the horse’s owner, condemned the “reckless owners” who illegally tether horses on public land.
Rachel regularly carries out welfare checks on tethered horses, including those tethered safely and correctly. She also checks that someone is caring for the animal, and that it has sufficient water and food if needed.
“There are ways of doing it (tethering) appropriately and there are ways and means of making it less likely for animals to get injured,” she says One of the problems is being able to trace the owners. “Young foals should be microchipped and have a passport, but it is not happening and it is not regulated,” says Rachel.
There is currently a joint effort between the RSPCA, the local Horse Watch and Bradford Council to keep the situation under control, but it’s a difficult issue to tackle.
Horses can be bought cheap, which is believed to have contributed to the problem of the animals being abandoned.
The RSPCA recently launched an appeal called Stable Future to stem the “never-ending tide” of abandoned young horses. The charity is currently looking after nearly 600 horses and ponies which have suffered neglect and cruelty – a figure which has more than doubled since last year, with almost half the animals involved being young horses.
Stable Future aims to find temporary fosterers to look after some of the 270 animals the charity cares for which are too young to be ridden.
RSPCA equine rehoming officer Sally Learoyd says: “Over the past year we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of horses being disowned or allowed to get into an appalling state because the trade in horses has collapsed.
“I’ve heard of young horses being sold for £5 – less than the price of a bottle of wine. I’ve heard of horses being bought and sold in pubs, and we’ve come across a case of someone keeping a horse on a tower block balcony and feeding it on kitchen scraps!
“We have a never-ending tide of young horses coming into our centres. Fostering is a way that horse-lovers can help us with this problem.
“Just like teenagers, these young horses need experience of life, a day-to-day routine and a guiding hand. Being a fosterer is a really rewarding experience. You can see these youngsters’ personalities change and develop as they grow.”
The recession, rising hay costs and irresponsible breeding are said to be to blame for the rising number of horses being neglected and abandoned.
Dianne French, who runs the Roleystone Horse and Pony Sanctuary in Wrose, has noticed an increase in enquiries from people wanting to re-home their horse.
“Basically, people can’t afford to keep them,” she says.
She says young horses are particularly cheap to buy, mainly because too many people are breeding them and the horse market is no longer buoyant. “People can afford to buy one but they find they can’t afford to keep one, or they haven’t got anywhere to keep one,” says Dianne.
She welcomes the RSPCA’s campaign, saying it will help relieve the situation.
The RSPCA has 594 horses and ponies in its care, compared to about 290 in April last year, and 266 are young horses.
The charity has seen an increase in the number of equine convictions, calls about abandoned horses and the amount of welfare advice being given out by its inspectors. It rehomed nearly 240 horses last year – 50 per cent more than the previous year.
The young horses available for fostering are aged between one and three. They are microchipped and have passports and tetanus vaccinations.
Foster carers must have experience in handling horses and be able to take in a young horse for a minimum of six months. For more information, visit rspca.org.uk/stablefuture or call 0300 1238000.