Got called in for a team meeting for the day job and some chance remarks from my colleagues set me thinking. The first was from a British colleague who reported that the habits of “flygrazing” and even horse abandonment were resurfacing in her part of southern England. Flygrazing usually takes the form of tethering horses or ponies to graze on common land, grass verges or even roundabout.
Theoretically, this somewhat desperate habit could be accomplished without cruelty – if the horse or pony is regularly monitored and has access to water and shade from the sun. But what happens all too often is that the horse is simply left, sometimes for days at a time. There’s the danger too that the horse may break free and wander onto roads or into other hazards. For concerned members of the public the dilemma is whether to report such instances or not. Is the horse suffering? Will its owner re-appear soon or not? Sometimes what starts as flygrazing ends up as the total abandonment of horses.
Check out this link to the Farmers’ Weekly to read about proposals to make flygrazing a criminal offence. There’s a picture there of a badly tied mare with foal: http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/01/08/2013/140304/make-fly-grazing-a-criminal-offence-says-nfu.htm
In the past, flygrazing was restricted to the travelling community, who generally did keep a regular eye on their horses but the financial crisis has meant many people have squeezed incomes, reduced hours of job losses to contend with plus the rising cost of stabling and general upkeep for horses. I think too that the unusually sunny summer in England has really slowed the regrowth of grass. England’s “green and pleasant land” is looking distinctly yellowy-brown in places. It’s the first ever summer I’ve had to feed hay throughout – my cob mare is a hairy native breed, out in the field all day but the grass is simply not coming through. Hay prices are not at all cheap.
Back to my colleagues. My second colleague is based in Florida and she – quite separately – commented that leasing horses is almost a craze there. With leasing, two, three or more people share the cost of keeping one horse. They also share the riding and the fun. Think holiday timeshare when it works well, but on a much more frequent basis. So, could leasing help address the difficulties in being able to afford to keep a horse in England? Probably yes – but it needs organisation and it needs trust and co-operation. It won’t solve the whole problem by any means but it could certainly help some. Perhaps social media such as Facebook could easily be used to help riders find other riders nearby with similarly constrained finances. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
Have you seen flygrazing? Have you leased a horse? What are your thoughts?