A WARNING that horse owners must become much more aware about the risk of disease and how to prevent it comes from Royl Owers, chief executive of the chairy World Horse Welfare, who has broadcast his Christmas message on YouTube.
Disease does not differentiate between a Grade A showjumper and a pony in somebody's back yard, says Owers, who urges everybody to be more vigilant.
"An outbreak of a serious equine disease in the UK could spell disaster for the country's horse population," he said.
His message also mentions the problems faced by horse owners in looking after their animals as costs spiral.
The charity's Great British Horse Survey this year revealed that 80 per cent of owners worry about the costs of keeping their horses.
The number of horses being taken in by the charity has risen by 50 per cent this year, putting enormous pressure on space and resources. However, there have been reasons to be cheerful this year. Fifty-five per cent of MEPs signed a Written Declaration calling for substantially reduced journey times and improved conditions for horses being transported across Europe to slaughter.
Overseas training projects are also running successfully in Africa, a five year programme is concluding in Romania and a new one has just started in Honduras. And among the charity's many success stories is a huge rescue horse called Digger, now training with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment to be a drum horse.
The 19th Clydesdale is the biggest horse the charity has cared for. His joints struggled to cope with rapid growth and he needed surgery and rehabilitation before moving on to his rather special new home.