Latest cost-of-living survey ‘worrying’ for equine owners and keepers

The NEWC survey reveals ‘worrying’ picture for equines and their owners due to cost of living crisis and the impacts of climate change

NEWC has released the results from its latest cost-of-living survey, which uncovers the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on equine-keeping. Over 6,000 equine owners from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland filled in this year’s survey. 

Key findings from the 2024 report include:

  • 81% of respondents were concerned about the continued pressure of increased costs
  • 39% said the crisis had had a medium or high impact on their ability to keep their horse, pony or donkey and that they had had to make additional sacrifices just to provide basic care
  • 80% reported an increase in vets’ fees, farrier services (65%) and insurance providers (62%)
  • 20% of respondents had taken on another job or increased their hours to help pay for their equine’s care
  • A small but significant number of owners (2%) said they were considering relinquishing their animal to a charity due to the pressure of increased costs
  • 5% were considering euthanasia.

One anonymous respondent said: “I can’t afford to call vets out of hours anymore. I rent a field and can’t afford a proper horse shelter or stables. I can’t afford the farrier regularly anymore.” 

Another said: “Everything increased resulting in it becoming impossible to continue to keep my horse in work, so she’s now been retired to a field.” A third respondent said they had had to go without food to feed their horse every month

Despite the rising costs, equine ownership proved vital to the mental health of some owners. One respondent, now unable to work, was going without food, heating and diesel because their horse was so important to them.

For the first time this year, respondents in the free text sections also highlighted their concerns about climate change, the altering seasons, the impact of the bad weather over the winter on their grazing, and the resulting turnout challenges.

Rebecca Boulert, Education Officer at World Horse Welfare, the equine charity coordinating this year’s survey, said, “We know from last year’s research that many owners were just about coping, all possible cost savings had already been made, so they really were feeling the pressure. This year’s survey shows that these problems are just not going away. Owners’ main concerns for the coming year are how they are going to afford even essential items like vet costs, emergency care, feed and forage. For us as welfare organisations, it makes for very concerning reading, and of course as charities we are also facing increased costs and reducing donations. It’s a worrying picture.”

Despite this, there were some positive welfare outcomes reported, including equines being turned out for longer or full-time, which can be beneficial for both their physical and mental health. Reports of owners opting for testing-led worm control methods, which are effective in tackling anthelmintic resistance in the equine parasite population. Many are now also opting for a forage-based, low-concentrate feed which can satisfy their animal’s physiological and behavioural needs.

The 2024 survey had 6,143 responses, a summary of which can be found HERE. The survey was developed by members of NEWC including World Horse Welfare, Redwings, Blue Cross, The British Horse Society, Bransby Horses and Oak Tree Animals Charity.

A tailored version of the survey targeting charities and other equestrian rescue centres was run concurrently to find out how the continuing cost of living crisis is affecting these types of organisations. It revealed a rise in operating costs against a fall in donations, with more welfare enquiries pointing at an increasing number of horses that will require their care. The full results of this survey can be viewed HERE

The results of both surveys will be shared with the UK Government, Devolved Administrations, and local authorities to help inform their understanding of the situation as well as policy decisions, including potential financial support to those most in need. 

Both reports are available to read below:

Results from NEWC's first Cost-of-Living survey of equine owners and keepers, which received over 8000 responses, were published in June 2023 and can be found HERE.

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