Archive for the ‘Welfare’ Category

Got bots?

If you look carefully you may see little yellow eggs on your horses legs and stomach. These are insect larvae produced by adult bot flies. These bee like looking insects usually linger around the horses chest and front legs.  If licked off the larvae can get into the horse’s mouth, later attaching themselves to the stomach lining where they develop into full-grown bots. This can lead to ulcers in the stomach which can be fatal. Hard frosts will eventually kill off the adult flies but until then it’s important to try and remove the bots with a tool such a bot knife seen here or a grooming block. Ensure your Autumn worming routine addresses bots and tapeworms with a wormer containing ivermectin or moxidectin.

A specific knife for removing bot eggs

A bot fly depositing its eggs

The damage - bot fly lavae attached to a horses stomach


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A poor looking horse awaiting his fate whilst a truck full of horses in the background wait to move off

Over the last few months we have been investigating some of the larger horse markets in France. We have invested heavily in surveillance equipment to record the evidence we need to effect the necessary changes. If we do not film or photograph unseen, then we run the risk of losing information. We were noticed photographing the huge sore on the female donkey’s hindquarters (see below), and when we returned to look at her, she had disappeared.

As ERF, our presence at the markets is to assess and report upon:

  • The well-being of the equines offered for sale
  • The conditions for the equines whilst at the markets
  • The handling of equines at the markets
  • The transportation to and from the markets
  • The compliance with EU welfare regulations, in particular Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005

Armed with this information, we then take the appropriate steps to report offences witnessed to the relevent EU bodies.

Our findings to date have been shocking. With a little more common sense applied to the needs of equines, many of the issues we encounter could be avoided. Some would be simple to implement – less overcrowding in the pens could prevent many of the injuries we witness.
There is a clear disregard for many of the EU transport laws – highly unsuitable vehicles used for transportation (two ponies even came out of the boot of a car!), inhumane loading practices, mixing horses and donkeys, entires and mares with all ages and all sizes being crammed so tightly into vans that the doors needed a lot of force just to shut against them.
Several injuries we saw were obviously from the horses being crushed against the ramp, or each other. Eye and lower limb lacerations were commonplace. There was no partitioning in many of the smaller dealers’ vans.
It seems likely that the permitted journey times for the young heavy horses travelling to Italy are being exceeded. The market is at least 8 hours (maximum journey time for unhandled horses) from the Italian border, and many of the trucks originated from regions in the NE of Italy.

Exhausted foals at the markets have only concrete to lie on all day

This coloured mare desperately attempts to escape from the stallion she is sharing a pen with. As she tries to launch over the pen she is halted by the rope she is tied to the railing with

Bad handling and unsuitable transport are to blame for many of the injuries we witnessed

For many this is the beginning of the journey to Italy for slaughter……

We will continue to monitor, report and campaign for equines to be treated humanely within the current EU animal welfare laws. We cannot continue to do this without your help. We need you as our eyes on the ground to report cases to us, and as our financial support. Every little helps, so please consider making a donation to enable to carry on with our welfare work in France.

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Image taken from Bucks Free Press

The appeal against the sentencing of James Gray and his family was rejected on Wednesday the 12th of May at Aylesbury Crown Court. All sentencing was upheld, with Gray receiving a a lifetime ban from keeping horses, a 26 week prison sentence (sadly the maximum allowed for such an offence) and instructed to pay £400,000 costs. The other four family members had minimum disqualification periods from keeping equines increased from five years to seven.

The sentencing Judge, Judge Tyrer said: What the court has been listening to is a horrendous case of animal cruelty. It is the worst case ever experienced by the RSPCA. In our judgment, this was animal cruelty on a scale that beggars belief.

The trial transcripts of the extent of the cruelty are in this DOCUMENT, and make grim reading.

There is however a twist in the tale, as James Gray has elected not to face his punishment, and has disappeared, with the police now forced to issue a warrant for his arrest as the defending lawyer admitted to having no idea where his client was.
If you see him phone Thames Valley Police urgently on 08458 505 505 or call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.

We will continue to fight for the animals left to suffer at the hands of people like James Gray. The EU welfare laws are not strong enough to protect equines at the bottom end of the market.
Please support us in our work to monitor and change the situation at markets where dealers like James Gray ply their trade in misery and degradation.

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A fascinating chiropractic study has been undertaken in two French riding schools. A worrying 74% of horses were found to have severe back problems, with only 26% with mild problems, or unaffected. About 60% of horses had problems in more than one area.

Nineteen horses were examined and assessed at work and rest, and the resulting findings then compared to the way the individual horses had been ridden, and how the riders had been taught.

The problems found in the resting horses correlated directly with both the horses’ demeanour in work, and the manner in which the horses were ridden. Significant differences in teaching styles between the schools showed a markedly different impact on the rider and horse posture.

A very brief summary of the data suggests that one of the schools focussed on control of the horses more than riders’ posture and technique. This in turn produced riders with higher heel positions and shorter reins/higher hand postitions, causing the horses’ way of going to be hollow backed with a high head carriage. All the horses in this school were found to have back problems.
The second school concentrated on rider posture, and lower heel position and longer reins allowed the horses to work with a low head carriage and round neck, which caused much less negative impact on the vertebrae, with a proportion of horses without back problems. The study also touched on the behavioural problems associated with back pain, such as head shaking and aggression.

It’s good to see such a study undertaken, lets hope that the message is received and acted upon.

The full study is HERE

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We thought Nanette deserved a post all of her own as the transformation in her from the neglected little donkey we rescued in June 2008, is nothing short of inspirational! Those of you who remember Nanette will also remember the dreadful state her feet were in, they had been neglected for many years.

X-ray of Nanettes foot on arrival

After x-rays were taken of her feet to assess whether she has any pedal bone rotation, the arduous task  began of trying to get her feet back into a decent state again. We thought that it was important to show you just what can be acheived with these rescued equines with time and care.

These were her feet on arriving with ERF….

Nanette Front feet

Nanette hind feet

And now…..

Nanette front feet

Nanette hind feet

We would like to thank Nanettes wonderful adoptive mum Caroline who has given this very special donkey so much time, patience and love since she has been with her….and also credit must go to her wonderful farrier!

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Spring is in the air, newborn lambs and calves can be seen dotting our countryside and we are also heading into prime breeding season for many equine Stud farms. Breeding equines is not something to enter into lightly though. Sadly often retired, lame or old mares are looked upon as ideal candidates for becoming broodmares. Their owners thinking along the lines that breeding a foal from them would give them a ‘purpose in life’ or ‘help pay for their keep’.

In past years a lapse in EU laws means that people are breeding from stallions that are not graded or haven’t reached the minimum standard for that breed. Other major concerns are that the age of mares are not being monitored resulting in very young or very old mares being put at risk. We have also seen first hand the results of irresponsible breeding, whereby mares have been bred with stallions totally unsuitable size wise resulting in permanent damage for the poor mares and sometimes loss of both the mare and foal.

At ERF we receive many calls each month regarding ‘at risk’ equines. One of the ways to reduce the amount of unwanted, neglected and abandoned equines would be the introduction of programmes to educate and inform on ways of producing equines of a higher quality and worth.

As a welfare Association, we are well aware that there are far more horses, ponies and donkeys than there are experienced and knowledgeable homes available to care for them. A problem that will only continue to escalate if we continue to add to those numbers. In the past few years the prices of horses and ponies, especially in the UK and Ireland, have dramatically fallen and there is a huge concern for the fate of such cheap animals. Equines are complex animals with specific needs and are likely to suffer if bought by inexperienced or unknowing people, especially when some are going for the same price as a pet rabbit! Purchase prices may be low but the costs of keeping a horse are still high meaning that anyone lured into horse-ownership because they now find the initial outlay affordable is likely to run into financial difficulties caring for their animal. The result being that yet more horses will suffer if we don’t start to tackle the root cause of the problem.

ERF has always adopted a no breeding policy for all equines that are rehomed by us under contract. We castrate, where safe to do so, all entire equines that come into our care. This is our committment to reducing indiscriminate breeding in the horse world, something we should all be thinking long and hard about.

A sad result of indiscriminate breeding

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It is a well known fact that the Italians like their horsemeat, so much so that they are now the largest consumer of horsemeat in Europe. To meet demand, over 200,000 horses are slaughtered in Italy each year with a high percentage being imported from mainly Poland, Romania and France. Things could all be about to change though as politicians from all parties are considering banning the  slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Francesca Martini, a minster with the Italian health ministry and a member of the ruling Right-wing coalition, has put forward the bill, arguing that the “dignity of horses should be respected”. The motion is already on the desk of the Italian parliament’s culture commission and has won considerably cross party support with opposition centre-Left MPs also backing it.

Also Backing the ban is Italy’s agriculture minister Luca Zaia who says horses should not be eaten and instead “considered just like cats and dogs”. The proposal has been warmly welcomed by the Italian federation for equine sports and animal cruelty charities who said it was “legislation that had been long overdue”.

The proposals have caused uproar in communities where horsemeat is popular who claim that eating horsemeat is part of their culture and right. There are also concerns that should the ban occur while there is still a high demand for horsemeat, that the trade will be driven underground resulting in a black market, as has happened in the Miami area of the US recently.

Let us hear your views on this topical subject…

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