Concerned about a horse?

If you are concerned for a horse's welfare, including if you suspect it has been mistreated or abandoned, you can report it by calling us on 01508 481008 or emailing welfare@redwings.co.uk.

Please try to provide as much information as you can, for example:

  • Exact location, or best description (nearby landmarks, road names etc). You could also use the What3Words app to give an exact spot https://what3words.com/
  • How many equines are at the location?
  • Colour and size of the equine(s)
  • The cause for concern (needs not being met, suffering, abandoned)

We also need your name and contact details if you want to know any outcomes (and if we are able to share).

If you are calling about a horse which is loose on a road or public highway, please call the Police immediately on 999 and inform them of the horse’s location.

Office hours for our main Welfare Line are 9am-5pm Monday-Friday. If our lines are busy or closed, you can leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible (or the next working day if out of hours) or you can also call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999

Explore our FAQ section below for more advice on reporting welfare concerns.

Please note - If you are an equine professional such as a farrier, saddle fitter or vet you can contact us confidentially to discuss an equine you are worried about. We respect client confidentiality and your professional judgement and aim to provide you with the support you need to decide what action, if any, should be taken.

Worried about a horse?

What areas do we cover?

Our field officers are based at three locations in the UK: Norfolk, at our headquarters, Essex, at our Ada Cole visitor centre, and Warwickshire at our Oxhill centre.

Our Field Officers will try to assist with welfare concerns in these locations and some surrounding areas. If a situation is too far from where our field officers are based, we may direct you to a different organisation to contact.

What is a welfare concern?

A welfare concern is a specific and serious breach of the Animal Welfare Act (2006), where a horse is suffering or likely to suffer in a situation.

It is important to be as concise as possible when reporting a potential welfare concern. Some of the things which could constitute a welfare concern are listed below:

  • Weight issues. If a horse is very underweight or very overweight; underweight horses usually have protruding bones, overweight horses have fatty lumps on their body.
  • Lameness. The horse is struggling or reluctant to walk, limping, or refusing to place one or more feet on the ground
  • Injury or illness. The horse is dull, unresponsive, lying down more than usual or breathing heavily

Please note this list is not exhaustive, so if you see something you’re concerned about, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We don’t usually accept welfare reports via social media. Often posts can be misleading, inaccurate, and out of date. Therefore, we ask for first-hand information from people who can give details from their own experience and we would ask you to encourage anyone who you see posting such concerns on social media to contact us directly instead.

What constitutes an emergency? An emergency could be a horse which is in obvious and severe distress. It could be a horse which is in a situation where serious injury could be imminent (i.e. trapped somewhere), or a horse which is bleeding excessively, or has a broken limb.

Straying or loose horses on the highway: If a horse is loose on the road, please call the Police on 999.

Abandoned horses: There is a large-scale problem in the UK currently with horses being abandoned or fly-grazed. Because of the number of calls we receive about abandoned horses (76 calls involving 263 equines in 2019), we are unable in most cases to take in horses relating to abandonments. You can find advice about dealing with abandonments here.

Tethered horses: If you are concerned about a horse being tethered, but it does not meet any of the criteria listed above, please consider reading our advice about tethered horses.

If you are in any doubt and concerned about an equine please do not hesitate to contact us via phone 01508 481008 or email welfare@redwings.co.uk.

What happens next?

Once we receive a call, it is passed onto one of our field officers to investigate further. All our reports are triaged and responded to accordingly. If it is thought to be an emergency, our field officers will go out as soon as possible.

Our field officers are extremely knowledgeable in equine care and management, and have an amazing amount of experience in assessing and dealing with welfare concerns. Sometimes horses are kept in a way which you might disagree with, but their needs may still be being met – in these circumstances, there may be no action taken.

If an equine’s needs aren’t being met, our field officers will attempt to contact the owner of the equine to ascertain what actions may have already been taken. Sometimes, for example with horses which are ill or injured, they may already be under the care of a vet

When the situation is more serious, or the horse needs immediate and serious action, we will coordinate with the relevant authorities/organisations needed to improve the situation.

For more information about actions welfare organisations may or may not take, please have a look at our Equine Welfare and the Law here.

What should I do now?

It can be very difficult when you live in an area where you believe a horse is suffering in poor welfare, especially when we have assessed them and found that the equine’s situation only warrants some advice to the owner. Immediate action in the case of horse welfare is rare and difficult to coordinate, which can be frustrating for many people.

It is important that anyone who is concerned for a horse report it, and allow the relevant organisations to deal with the situation. Taking responsibility into your own hands (eg by feeding an equine yourself) can make it much more difficult for welfare organisations to intervene.

We recommend that members of the public do not feed horses without permission from the owner. You could be held liable if the horse has an adverse reaction, and feeding can remove essential evidence that could be used to permanently improve the horse’s welfare.

For more advice, please visit the Equine Welfare and Law page, or our article on feeding horses you don’t own, here.

I have a horse I need to rehome

Redwings Horse Sanctuary has always had rescue at its heart but in the past we did have some space to take in retired horses which were no longer fit for work. Over the years, we have increasingly been dealing with the fallout from a growing equine welfare crisis in the UK, meaning that our focus is solely on saving and protecting vulnerable and suffering equines.

Because of this shift, our sanctuary has largely become a home to horses which are unable to be rehomed, meaning that the space we have to accommodate new intakes is extremely limited. In order to continue our work alleviating the suffering of abused and neglected horses in the UK, any space we do have must prioritised for those horses.

We receive on average requests to rehome around 70 horses per month, which adds up to nearly 900 horses per year. We are simply unable to consider all of these requests; however you can still call or email us for advice about rehoming your horse; we may not be able to offer them a home, but we’re more than happy to discuss your individual situation and signpost to places you could go to for more help.