A rare horse has been found dead after being fed by a member of the public, a breeder has claimed.
The Cleveland Bay mare, who was pregnant, was discovered by breeder William Medforth at Penrhyn Stud in Caernarfon, Wales. It appears the horse, called Harmony, was fed over the fence by a well-meaning but “ignorant” passer-by.
Mr Medforth now wants to raise awareness of the dangers of feeding horses without permission from the owners. The breeder said: “This is a breed rarer than the giant panda, so to lose one of our most prolific brood mares and her unborn foal is not just devastating for our breeding programme, it’s damaging for the breed as a whole.”
Only 15 to 20 female Clevelands are born worldwide “in a good year”, he added.
Harmony was especially valuable because of the purity of her “old breeding” bloodlines.
‘Don’t interfere with horses’ diets’
Patches of grass around the dead animal were “extensively grazed, a sign she had been scouring food items from the ground”, Mr Medforth claimed. He also said that there appeared to be “remnants of peelings at the edges of these patches”.
“Over winter, there’s less grass on the ground and fields can be a little muddy, so some people might think horses and livestock aren’t getting enough food,” he added, as he urged the public to be more mindful about the potential risks.
“Others might just think it’s a nice idea to feed a pretty horse. Our horses are well looked after, they’re fed a balanced diet and they want for nothing. If anything, they’re fed better than we are.”
In a post on Facebook, Mr Medforth said: “Why do the general public think it’s okay to feed livestock without permission?
“They wouldn’t walk up to someone and feed their dog chocolate or grapes, which are poisonous to them. People might think carrots are okay for horses but, cut the wrong way, they can cause [choking]. So please don’t interfere with their diets, you might be killing them with your ignorance.”
England’s oldest breed
It is not yet clear the exact foodstuff that Harmony was given which caused the horse to die. The breeder also saw another horse, Dimple, die in similar circumstances three years ago.
Established in 1972, the Penrhyn Stud has a global reputation for breeding Clevelands, which, according to the Cleveland Bay Horse Society, is England’s oldest breed, dating back to the 17th century. The horses thrived because of their adaptability, initially used as pack horses by monks to carry goods between abbeys and monasteries.
They gained the nickname of “Chapman Horses” in the Middle Ages, when they carried the goods of travelling salesmen, or the Chapmen. However, numbers dwindled to just four in the UK, before the breed was rescued by the late Queen, who bought a colt named Mulgrave Supreme, born in 1961, who had been earmarked for export.
The RSPCA advises that horses should never be given lawn clippings or “large amounts of fermentable foods such as apples, as they can be toxic and even fatal”.
The British Horse Society adds that horses have “relatively small” stomachs and should be fed “little and often”.