Coronavirus and the Horse

For many of us, it is a trying time and, with more and more countries implementing a lock-down, a complicated one. Equestrian centres are closed and, in many cases, even owners are being turned away from visiting their horses. A time to reflect on the welfare of the incarcerated horse…

Boxed Horses Overview

A great many owners consider keeping their horses stabled —incarcerated— as being normal; but now it is the owners themselves that are incarcerated in their own homes. However, they are lucky; they still have some space to move in, unlike the horse, cramped up in what amounts to a telephone box. The owners have the luxury of a separate toilet, unlike the horse, standing —involuntarily— in his own excrement for much of the time. The owners can still eat when they want —and feel the need— to; the horse, with a digestive system adapted to much more frequent replenishment, 12 to 16 ‘meals’ in every 24 hours, is restricted to just two meals a day – and then food for the most part completely unsuitable for his digestive system.

Clearly there is little that can be done at the moment for those horses suffering such incarceration; hopefully, when this period of crisis is passed, owners will reflect on the misery they inflict on their horses simply through their ignorance. Owners in general consider that they are doing the best for their animals but all too often, their best is little better than a purgatory since the owners perceptions are based upon human needs and desires and not on those of their animals.

Remember that if you are under lock-down and your horses are not being tended to by an equestrian centre or similar, you are still responsible for their welfare. That means you have derogation to tend to your animals’ welfare provided you respect all other regulations in force. Horses (and other domestic animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits, rodents etc.) are not vectors for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This article was also published in The Equine Independent on 23 March 2020


Why oh why do people – well educated supposedly open-minded people – get so stuck in their ways?
Ten to fifteen years ago, if you had built a bright airy riding arena with stalls, 3x3m opening onto a wide gangway, reactions would have been “Wow! Fantastic.” Today, we realize that this is no longer acceptable. We also realize that the cost of rebuilding a stable to the latest standards is probably prohibitive – so we have a choice: we can look at all the possibilities available to us to improve the welfare of our horses, or we can stick our heads in the sand and say ” we’ve always done it this way and we are not going to change…”

Sounds familiar?

Give me a reason to shoe…


This hoof has been propped up and weighted to encourage the “Big Lick” so loved by the Tennessee Walking Horse community

…and I’ll give you two reasons not to.
There are so many arguments why a horse should be shod – but really they are all excuses. And there is no excuse for this continuing mediæval practice.
In most western countries there are laws protecting animals against cruelty, unnatural and unnecessary practices – and yet none seems to want to put these laws into effect when it comes to the welfare of horses and ponies.
In France, Article L214-1 of the Code Rural states that:
“All sentient animals must kept by their owners in a condition and environment appropriate to their species”

In Great Britain, the Animal Welfare Act (2006) states in Section 9, Subsection 2:
For the purposes of this Act, an animal’s needs shall be taken to include—
(a) its need for a suitable environment,
(b) its need for a suitable diet,
(c) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
(d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and
(e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

and yet in all these countries, horses are still shod and kept in boxes.

Even more worrying is the situation in the Netherlands where there still is no actual Animal Welfare Act or similar and the equine sector itself has been asked to draw up guidelines in relation to equine welfare.

There are indications of European animal welfare legislation but as with most things in Europe, it will either be watered down or, worse still, deemed inappropriate in certain countries either because they find it “inapplicable”, “unenforceable” or “goes against cultural heritage”.