THE British Horse Society (BHS) is issuing a warning to members of the public in Cumbria to not feed any horses they may encounter whilst out and about.

With more people taking to the countryside during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BHS has been made aware of instances where horses have been seriously injured, made extremely ill or in some cases having died due to the public feeding the horse or through actions such as leaving gates open.

Alan Hiscox, Director of Welfare at The British Horse Society said: “The BHS is urging members of the public not to feed horses in fields as this can cause serious illness and be potentially life threatening.

"We believe many people act with no malicious intent and are simply unaware of the risks that certain foods or grass cuttings can pose to horses. We encourage horse owners to download signs the BHS has produced warning the public not to feed their horse. The greater the awareness of the issue, the more likely people are to change their behaviour in the future.”

The BHS is offering the following advice to the public: Although feeding horses may seem harmless, it is important not to due to the following reasons:Any type of food, grass cuttings or any other plants can cause horses to become extremely unwell or even kill them; Fighting between horses could break out and cause an injury; Horses may mistake your fingers for food and accidentally nip them'.

If you cross land with a right of way where horses are kept, the above points will be applicable but also ensure you: Leave gates and property as you find them; Keep to the right of way; Take your litter home; Keep your dog on a lead and bag and bin your dog’s mess; Give horses lots of a space and avoid coming between mothers and their young; If you see a horse in distress, alert the nearest farm/yard or check for a sign with owner’s detail on.

The BHS has produced signs for horse owners to place around their fields warning the public not to feed their horses. These are available for download on the British Horse Society website.

Meanwhile, TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh has lent his support – and voice – to World Horse Welfare’s Welfare Line Appeal.

World Horse Welfare is Britain’s largest equine rescue and rehoming charity and Alan has voiced an advert about their latest appeal that is being broadcast over Classic FM.

Known principally as a TV gardener, broadcaster and novelist, Alan’s link with horses is perhaps less well-known and extends far beyond simply using their manure on his flowerbeds!

Alan said “I vowed to learn to ride before my 40th birthday, and I did! I used to do a bit of jumping in the early days and I was lucky enough to take part in some fantastic events at Windsor and with the King’s Troop, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Nowadays, though, my involvement boils down to occasionally hacking out, looking at other people’s gardens over hedges.”

Each year the welfare line receives 8,000 calls from members of the public, and their concern leads to the charity’s team of 16 highly experienced Field Officers attending around 1,500 potential welfare cases each year.

This completely confidential telephone line can help improve the welfare or even save the lives of horses and ponies.

Working with the owners to improve conditions or, where necessary, removing the animals to one of the World Horse Welfare’s four Rescue and Rehoming Centres around the UK, horses and ponies are nursed back to health.

The aim is for each animal to be rehabilitated and rehomed, giving it the life it deserves and releasing space at the centres for more animals needing help.

The Welfare Line is an essential welfare service, manned by a small, dedicated, highly trained and experienced team and a single call to it has the power to change a neglected animal’s life forever.