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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff ~ Equine Welfare Reality Check!

Abandoned looking horses

The past few weeks, equine welfare has exploded over social media and even making national news! Ordinarily, this would be fantastic! I am all for raising awareness of welfare issues within the equine industry and encouraging both horsey and non horsey folk to get involved to bring about change. However, the two major stories I have seen recently are not welfare concerns and certainly are not news worthy! I’m sure many of you will have heard about these stories and I have been trying not to get involved with the debate, largely due to how many people have gotten involved. But after seeing just how much attention these ‘issues’ are getting. I feel I need to address them and redirect this energy to something which can actually improve equine welfare!

Pony Painting Parties


I don’t even know where to start with this one. Anyone who knows horses knows that lots of horses enjoy a good scratch and groom. I don’t really see how rubbing non toxic paint on them is much different. I’m sure Scottie would love it! As long as the pony is okay with children and being touched then I don’t see a welfare problem at all! Horse & Hound shared a similar view to me on this topic!

“Keep Kicking” Pony Club Sign

The driveway to the Pony Club Championships was lined with motivational phrases often used to encourage young riders to enjoy our sport and to keep going. However, one sign demanded the attention of the equine industry after a disgruntled Facebook post about other means of the well known and well used phrase “Keep Kicking”.


Now while I can see why an uneducated eye could interpret this message as an equine welfare issue, I feel the reaction on social media has been way over the top. Yes you ‘kick’ the horse to encourage them forwards. But is how you kick while riding the same as how you would violently kick someone who was attacking you? NO! I have ridden from a very young age and have ridden both lazy and speedy horses both at home and in a competitive environment. I would describe how I kick while riding as more of a squeeze or a nudge. Certainly not a form of abuse.

But I also massively disagree with how this sign has been interpreted. I don’t feel it has anything to do with egos or numbing a horse to your aids. It is simply a statement of encouragement and reminding you to keep riding. Just because you have cleared the first 2 jumps in a course, doesn’t mean you can expect the horse to do the next 8 without you riding!

Real Equine Welfare Issues!

world horse welfare, equine welfare

Credit World Horse Welfare

While it is great that people have been showing concern for equine welfare. There are so many better things people could be doing to improve the quality of life and safety of horses in the UK! Every day horses are suffering from neglect and actual abuse. Not only this, but horses are getting injured on the roads and attacked by out of control dogs.

Here are some ways you (or your non horsey friends) can do to help!

  • Pass horses safely on the roads! Slowing down when passing a horse on the road and giving them plenty of space can stop them getting injured. Find out more about how to safely pass a horse on the road.
  • Don’t feed horses you don’t know! While you may think you are being nice giving the horses in the field some treats, if you haven’t spoken to the owner first, you could be doing the horse a lot of harm. Much like us, horses can have allergies and may need to be on strict diets for medical reasons. Feeding them can make them ill.
  • Keep your dogs on a lead. If you are walking through a field with horses or passing horses while out on a walk. Please put your dog on the lead. Dogs can chase and attack horses. This puts the horse, you, your dog and the rider at risk.
  • Reconsider setting off fireworks and Chinese lanterns. If you live near horses, reconsider setting off fireworks. They can scare the horses can cause them to injure themselves. If you still want to want them, talk to the horse owner first, letting them know when you plan on letting them off. This means they can take precautions to help keep their horse calm and safe. I personally would never set off Chinese lanterns. They can set fire to farm buildings, trapping animals inside. They can also seriously burn animals if they land on them.
  • Donate to an Equine Charity. Equine charities do some amazing work to help horses. See if you can help one do more by donating to them. Depending on the charity, you could donate money, items or even just your time! There are lots of great charities out there, but one I have a lot of respect for is World Horse Welfare.

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