Most walkers don’t set out to intentionally harm your horses by feeding them treats over the fence – they just don’t know any better.
But, their lack of knowledge does pose a threat to your animals and can be constant source of worry to you.
As well as creating bad field habits, and causing potential fighting in the herd, unwanted feeding could result in life-threatening conditions such as laminitis, gut blockages and choke.
In this blog, we reveal six ways to help prevent this dangerous practice so that your pets stay happy and healthy all year round.
1. Put signs up
Well positioned, polite notices can deter passersby from feeding your horses by alerting them to the potentially fatal consequences of their actions.
You can download free printable signs from The British Horse Society website or buy sturdy plastic ones from their shop. It’s a good idea to change your signs from time-to-time so that regular walkers get a fresh reminder.
2. Talk to people
One of the biggest dangers to horses and ponies is fresh grass cuttings. Large amounts of cuttings can be over-eaten quickly and will ferment rapidly in the gut causing problems. Sadly, we’ve all heard heartbreaking stories of owners who have lost beloved animals in this way.
The best way to tackle this is to speak directly to your field neighbours. Take time out to visit people who live in the surrounding area and let them know that dumping grass cuttings in the field is potentially life-threatening.
3. Post in local Facebook groups
Prevention is better than cure. So, how about gently educating your community with friendly messages via your town or village Facebook group?
Don’t go on the attack. People respond more favourably to positive messages than angry ones, so share the dangers and thank people in advance for helping you to protect your animals.
4. Install electric fencing
If education doesn’t work, you may need to take more drastic action.
Placing electric fencing around the perimeter of your field will not only stop your animals approaching the fence line, it will also keep pedestrians back too. Make sure you display warning signs to let people know the fence is live.
5. Erect internal fencing
Another option is to install a second, internal fence within your boundary line. Lots of horse-owners find this is the only way to stop people feeding their horses and ponies.
The downsides, of course, are that extra fencing is expensive - especially if you have a large area to cover - and it reduces grazing.
However, if you think this is a suitable option for you, make sure you also try the ‘throw test’ before settling on the inner fence’s final position. Some people will stop at nothing to get food over the line!
6. Make sure your horses have plenty of food available
People often feed outdoor animals because they feel sorry for them – especially in winter when the fields might look bare.
To stop this, make sure your horses have access to plenty of hay. Position the hay where walkers can see it but keep it well away from the boundary lines. Your horses will usually stay closest to the easiest source of food and be less tempted by freebies over the fence!
You could also put signs up to let people know that you check on, and feed, your horses every day. This will reassure anyone who is worried about your animals.
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