Reining in horse numbers

'Castration does not just prevent a stallion producing foals. It usually results in the horse becomi

'Castration does not just prevent a stallion producing foals. It usually results in the horse becoming more amenable and easier to handle' - Credit: Archant

A new scheme by the British Horse Society is tackling the issue of horse overpopulation

The British Horse Society recently held the first of its 2015 castration clinics at a site near Southampton. A total of 28 colts and stallions were gelded at the clinic, which was supported by the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Blue Cross and Redwings.

The clinic also marked the first collaboration between the BHS and the British Equine Veterinary Association. Through the BEVA Trust, eight volunteer vets from across Britain travelled to Southampton to help tackle Britain’s equine welfare crisis.

Charities have been reporting for many years the serious equine overpopulation issue that Britain faces. The stark truth is that there are more horses and ponies than the UK can cope with, and this leads to cases of neglect, suffering and abandonment, leaving charities to pick up the pieces. However, charity resources are limited and there will come a time when they are completely overwhelmed unless action is taken. Thousands of horses are currently being monitored, having been identified as being at serious risk. Should a large number of these horses require immediate intervention, charities will not be able to cope.

Overpopulation cannot be allowed to continue, which is why the British Horse Society and its partners are taking such proactive measures. BHS director of equine policy Lee Hackett said, ‘We cannot stand by and ignore the problems that overpopulation and indiscriminate breeding cause. Over the next 18 months we hope to run clinics all over Britain and castrate as many horses as we can. The 28 castrations we performed in one day in Southampton was a fantastic achievement. When you consider how many foals a stallion can produce in a lifetime, we could, in just one day, have prevented the birth of hundreds, if not thousands of foals, many of whom would have faced a very uncertain future.

Julian Samuelson, chairman of the BEVA Trust committee, said its vet volunteers are ‘hugely enthusiastic’ about the project. He added, ‘By castrating colts and stallions together with microchipping, we are directly helping to reduce breeding and improve traceability. We look forward to participating in future clinics.’

Castration does not just prevent a stallion producing foals. It usually results in the horse becoming more amenable and easier to handle, increasing the likelihood of it fulfilling a useful role as a riding horse and safeguarding its future. Horses with a job to do have a value, and are far less likely to fall into a spiral of neglect and abandonment than those that are difficult to handle. Many livery yards and even field owners will not allow stallions on their premises, so gelding a horse means the animal is far less likely to end up tethered or fly-grazing. Castration can directly improve a horse’s quality of life.

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The BHS Castration Campaign has the potential to make a real difference to the future welfare of British horses, but it needs urgent support. For more information visit or to donate, text BHSA60 £5 to 70070.