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Middle-class families forced to give up ponies to cover mortgage bills

horses
horses

Middle class families are giving up horse riding to cover soaring bills and higher mortgage costs.

The increased cost of feed, insurance and fees charged by yard owners means horse ownership is £1,000 more expensive than it was last year.

As a result, charities have seen a spike in horses being handed over for rehoming, as families battle high mortgage rates and utility bills.

Mortgage rates edged upwards this week over expectations of a smaller base rate cut this summer. About 1.6 million homeowners’ fixed-rate deals will end this year.

The average cost of owning a horse rose by a fifth to £6,000 a year between 2022 and 2023, according to equestrian insurer Harry Hall.

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More than three-quarters of yard owners raised their fees last year, with 29pc charging horse owners £20 more a month.

Liz Hopper, of Harry Hall, said yard owners were under pressure from soaring insurance costs, and the need to pay employees the National Living Wage (currently £11.44 an hour).

Likewise, insurance premiums for horse owners, as with other forms of pet insurance, have also risen by as much as 13pc in 2023.

Ms Hopper said: “Horse owners are facing bills of £500 a month – and that’s just for one horse, a good number of equestrians have two.

“All of the essentials like feed, bedding, livery, shoes and vet fees have gone up.

“A lot of it because of terrible crops last year. Bedding is made of straw, and the terrible rain ruined a lot of crops.”

A report by the British Equestrian Trade Association found that some 6 million British households have an ex-horse rider, of which half want to return to the sport. Almost half (44pc) of horse owners admitted they had made personal sacrifices to keep their horses.

However some have been forced to rehome their horses, the RSPCA took in 444 horses last year – a 15pc increase from the year before.

At the time, a spokesman said: “This year we rehomed 82 horses, which is a drop of more than 50pc on last year, which is a trend across the rehoming sector as the cost of living takes its toll”.

Bransby Horses, a rehoming charity in Lincoln, told specialist publication Horse and Hound, that “this winter has hit the equine community hard,” and expected an increase in calls for support and welfare in 2024.

A cost of living report published by the National Equine Welfare Council found that almost one in five horse owners were “having to consider difficult decisions such as selling their horse, sharing their horse or, very sadly, having to euthanise their horse because of rising costs”.

The council has yet to publish its findings this year, but Su Selve, of member charity World Horse Welfare, said rising mortgage rates were becoming an issue for equestrians.

She said: “One in five horse owners this year said they had encountered difficulty with their horse-keeping budget because of increased mortgage payments – and more than half said higher energy bills had posed an unexpected challenge.

“As a charity, we are seeing an increase in people contacting us for advice because they are struggling to cope financially.”

It comes as a report by loan agency Plend found even high-earners are struggling to cope with the cost of living crisis, with one in four workers earning at least £60,000 a year admitting to borrowing money to meet basic needs. One in 10 said they had considered loan sharks to access credit and pay bills, Plend’s report found.

Horse rehoming charity Saving Abandoned Fly-Grazing Equines (SAFE) said older horses were more likely to be rehomed, as “they likely have medical problems that are costly.”

Ms Hopper said: “Horses live to a good old age. But when a horse needs major treatment, do you pay the bill or make a difficult decision? It’s a tough call, but it does happen.”

Alison Stratford, SAFE’s founder and chair trustee, said: “It’s our goal to help abandoned, neglected horses and unfortunately we have seen an increase recently in horse owners seeking re-home options due to the cost of living crisis.

“The underlying factor is that some equestrians simply can’t afford the ever-increasing costs that come with owning a horse.”

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