RSPCA Victoria - The responsibility of caring for horses

Anyone who has the pleasure of being a horse owner will know the joys of their companionship. However, well-meaning potential owners aren’t always aware of the significant time and care – and the cost! - needed to keep a horse happy and healthy.

Last year, RSPCA Victoria received over 10,000 complaints of animal cruelty; nearly 2,000 of those were related to concerns about horse welfare.

RSPCA Victoria CEO, Dr Liz Walker, says that horse neglect is often not intentional, but simply a lack of understanding about the level of care needed to maintain good welfare...

“Owning a horse can be a great pleasure, but it’s also a huge responsibility,” Dr Walker said. “It’s essential for both new and established owners to have a clear understanding of proper horse welfare and care.”

If you’re considering owning a horse, be prepared to devote time every day to feeding, grooming and cleaning.

Caring for horses can be especially difficult when circumstances change, such as personal health problems, sudden loss of income or challenging weather conditions.

This year Australian farmers have experienced the driest July since 2002, with New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria all suffering well-below-average rainfall. These drought conditions and critically low water levels put added strain on farmers to provide food and water for their animals.

Dr Walker encourages horse owners to be conscious of their capacity to care for their animals, and to reach out for help before challenging situations get worse.

“In critical times such as these, it is important to be understanding and compassionate towards those who may be struggling to care for their livestock and farm animals.

“If you think your ability to care for your animals could be compromised, seek advice and consider your options. If you’re concerned for a horse’s welfare, contact your local RSPCA shelter or horse rescue group.”

There are many important aspects of horse welfare to consider before committing to purchasing a horse:


Your horse must have regular exercise and grooming. You'll need to ensure your horse is regularly visited by a farrier (every 6-8 weeks), has dental checkups, regular worming treatments and vaccinations against diseases such as strangles and tetanus.


Feeding your horse is not just a matter of putting them into a paddock and letting them graze for themselves - you must ensure your horse has ready access to food and fresh water.

You have to work out how much feed they need to maintain a healthy body score condition and weight, and how much they have access to - and make sure they have the right balance of food for their wellbeing.


Horses are sociable animals by nature, so keep this in mind when deciding where they will be housed. If you intend to keep your horse in a paddock, you must ensure it is properly fenced, kept free of droppings to discourage flies and aid worm control, and close enough to home to permit daily visits.

If you are interested in adopting a horse, RSPCA Victoria has almost 20 horses currently available for adoption. All RSPCA Victoria horses have had foot and dental checks, received ongoing farrier work, have a good body score and have been vaccinated and drenched.

For more information on caring for horses come along to Equitana 2018 on 15-18 November, and considering enrolling in RSPCA Victoria’s ‘Caring for Horses’ short course.

You can find out more about adopting and RSPCA Victoria short courses at