HORSE lovers are being asked to think twice before taking on too many horses after a surge in welfare cases.

Leading equine charity World Horse Welfare has revealed that its field officers are seeing an unprecedented number of welfare cases involving large groups of horses.

Some people own up to 150 horses and the charity says that what seems like a good idea in summer rapidly becomes extremely costly during the winter when owners need to buy hay and concentrated feed.

Tony Tyler, the charity’s deputy chief executive, said that while it tried to work with the owner, sometimes the best course of action was to remove a horse or horses from the site where their welfare was compromised.

“In the past month there have been seven instances where we have rescued groups of horses.

Almost 20 horses have already come into our care with another 25 due to arrive in the near future,” said Mr Tyler.

“With our centres already at capacity, we are struggling to find space to meet the current demand. We treat each case very seriously and try to work with the owner to resolve the situation.”

He said that horses were often bought in the summer months where most do well turned out in a field. However, when the winter arrives owners simply cannot afford to feed the correct amount required, the condition of the horses deteriorates and that is when the charity’s field officers are asked to attend.

David Boyd, of World Horse Welfare, said: “Owners need to look carefully at how they are going to house their horses during the winter. A field quickly becomes a quagmire and the horse’s health is compromised. If the horse is to be stabled, it’s essential that the environment is kept clean and there is space for the horses to have freedom of movement. Too many owners cram too many horses into a barn and deep-litter the bed badly, leading to injuries and health issues.”

Financial constraints play a part in horse owners having to sell their horses as they can’t afford to look after them. Mr Boyd said that many horse owners only looked at the purchase price of a horse and not at the real costs of keeping a horse. These include having the horse’s feet and teeth checked, as well as worming – not to mention accidents and illness. In some situations, horses were being sold very cheaply or even given away.

“It is time that horse owners, current and potential, started to think carefully about how many horses they can care for correctly before they acquire more horses than they can cope with,” said Mr Boyd. Visit the charity website to find out more.