Horse ownership carries with it heavy responsibilities, responsibilities to the horse, responsibilities to others and responsibilities to the environment.
Responsibilities to the horse
As a horse owner you are wholly responsible for your horse's welfare, here are the five basic rights that all animals should have, the five freedoms:
Freedom from thirst and hunger - A horse should have constant access to fresh, clean water and sufficient amounts of the correct foodstuffs. Horses have evolved to graze for 16 - 20 hours a day and feeding practices must take this into account.
Freedom from discomfort - A horse needs an appropriate environment to live in where they have adequate space and suitable shelter. Horses are inherently social herd animals that require the company of other equines.
Freedom from pain, injury and disease - A horse owner or carer must know the basics of horse care and be able to recognise when a horse needs veterinary attention, a farrier or an equine dentist.
Freedom to express normal behaviour - Understanding horse behaviour is essential for your own safety and to enable you to provide suitable living conditions for your horse. A knowledge of horse behaviour will also enable you to train your horse safely and effectively in a humane manner.
Freedom from fear and distress - Horses should not be placed in a situation where they continue to suffer distress, fear or pain.
It is also your responsibility as a horse owner to re-home a horse should you at any time decide that you are no longer able or willing to keep it. The long term interests of the horse must always be considered and in some instances it is kinder to have a horse put-down rather than risk it suffering an uncertain fate.
Responsibilities to others
It is the responsibility of the horse owner to ensure that their horse does not impose a danger to others.
Horse's must always be kept under control when in a public place.
Fencing must be kept in good repair to prevent horses straying onto other peoples land or the public highway and causing damage or accidents.
As a horse owner you will be responsible under law for any damage caused by your horse.
Responsibilities to the environment
Horses produce large amounts of manure (up to 9 tons a year) which will need to be managed in an environmentaly responsible way with special care needed to avoid the contamination of water courses.
In wet conditions horses will churn up the ground so as a responsible horse owner you should always consider the impact of riding along a public right of way during wet weather as this might make it unusable for others.
Horses are selective grazers as a horse owner you will need to understand and practice pasture management to prevent grassland being ruined.