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The UK is currently in a state of ‘horse crisis’ with more horses being abandoned and rescue centres being over their maximum capacity. These rescue centres need to rehome their current horses in order to make space for new horses which need their help. However, the majority of horses up for rehoming are only to be companions. Horses are very expensive to keep and since the economy took a hit a few years ago, charities have seen a rise in horses needing their help. This tells us that it is now more expensive and harder to have horses and many people simply can’t justify buying/keeping a horse they can’t ride/drive. So should rescue centres reconsider what a horse can be rehomed as?
If you go onto a charities website to look at their horses which need homes, they tend to fall into one of the following categories:
- Youngstock only a baby but no reason why it couldn’t have a job/career when they’re older.
- Riding Horse this horse will be perfectly suitable for general purpose activities and local level shows but occasionally has limits on its jumping.
- Hack this horse can be ridden, but can only be in light work with very little or no jumping.
- Companion these horses are to be rehomed as a companion only and should not be ridden/driven/exercised.
Now, I imagine there are probably a fair few homes who would be interested in a young horse or a riding horse. There are also lots of happy hackers out there who would be more than happy to rescue a horse to plod around on. However, very few of us are lucky enough to be in the financial position to take on a horse knowing it will only ever be a companion.
It’s one thing having a horse which suffers an injury where they can never be ridden again, many of us would still find a way to give this horse the best life possible and either sacrifice our ridden goals or find another way to achieve them. But I’m sure I am not alone in saying that in the position I am in now, I cannot imagine ever taking on a horse I know I would never be able to ride. If I had my own land/yard or more money, I would love to rescue a pony as a companion and just let them live the rest of their days out in peace. But the reality is, I just can’t see this ever happening!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there is a very good reason why the rescue centres have decided that these horses should only be rehomed as a companion. But I would be interested to know how many of these cases could go back to having a job without any mental or physical welfare concerns, especially when many of these horses are still young (under 10 years.) Because I am pretty certain that the majority of them with the right care and right people around them, could go on to make good hacking horses, if not more.
I think part of the reason they might put them up as companions could be because they don’t have the time to train/retrain them to see if they really could be more and in theory, rehoming as a companion could mean that they leave the rescue centre sooner than if they were to be retrained to be a hack or riding horse. But I think if they find the right, experienced people, the majority, if not all, of this retraining can happen once the horse is rehomed. The rescue centre could just do the assessing if the horse would be suitable and capable of a job in the future.
So maybe, charities need to use the term ‘companion with potential for…’ more often for horses which could have a job in the future with the right work put in. This is likely to get more people interested in the horse in the first place and therefore hopefully the charity will have more suitable people to choose from. Which in turn should mean that more horses will find homes, freeing up space for more horses to be helped.
World Horse Welfare in particular is very good at grouping their horses and already have several companion with potential categories. They also have more detailed categories on the type of work the horse will be suitable for, which should make it easier for potential rehomers to find a horse suitable for their needs and therefore are more likely to rehome a horse.
Ideally, we would have tighter breeding regulations on horses in the UK, which would lower the number of often poor quality horses being neglected and needing help from charities. But right now we need to do something to help end as many horses suffering as possible and other than putting more ‘worthless’, poor quality horses down, we need to find a way to rehome as many horses as possible. Hopefully in the future, tighter breeding regulations will help prevent a crisis like this happening again.
What’s your opinion on rescuing companion only horses? Have you done it? Would you do it?
Do you think many of these companions could do/be more?