The British Horse Society (BHS) and the University of Bristol Veterinary School are asking members of the public not to feed any horses they may encounter whilst out and about.
More than three quarters of horse owners surveyed found that their horses were fed without their permission, and 83% of those responsible were families, preliminary research led by the University of Bristol Veterinary School has found.
With more people taking to the countryside during the third COVID-19 lockdown, the BHS has been made aware of instances where horses have been seriously injured, made extremely ill or in some cases having died due to the public feeding the horse or through actions such as leaving gates open.
The BHS launched their #BeHorseAware campaign in April 2020 to raise public awareness of the suffering that horses and owners can go through as a result of inappropriate feeding.
Preliminary results from the Bristol survey, completed by 1,017 people in 2020, revealed high numbers of owners had experienced their horses being fed without their permission, with over half finding this had been occurring more frequently since the first COVID-19 lockdown.
The survey also found that nearly a third of horses became unwell as a result, with half of these needing veterinary treatment. Almost a third of those that required treatment did not make a full recovery and shockingly 16% died or were euthanised.