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No horsing around – today is an opportunity for you to be a good ‘neeeiiigh-bor’ as it’s National Help A Horse Day! This important occasion aims to raise awareness of the struggles that equines all over the world face and contribute to efforts saving them from cruel and inhumane situations.

Horses are very distinctive animals, well known for their grace and beauty. While there over 300 different breeds, they can be grouped into three main types – “hot bloods”, which are fast and bold, “cold bloods”, which are strong and calm, and “warm bloods”, which are a blend of the two and tend to be good for riding.

They can be flighty animals and scare easily, which also means they’re able to sleep standing up in case a quick getaway is needed! A horse’s teeth are incredibly long and gradually emerge into the mouth (a process known as “erupting”) over the course of its life to replace what’s been ground down by chewing. And of course they’re excellent runners, able to move in a variety of gaits including trotting, cantering and full-out galloping!

History of National Help A Horse Day

Alongside the loyal dog, horses are often referred to as man’s best friend, and it’s no wonder! Over the course of human history, these majestic beasts have been the backbone of civilization and have done much of the heavy lifting in human endeavors, often literally!

Tamed around 5 millennia ago, equines have been crucial across a wide range of areas including transport, agriculture, warfare and ceremonial occasions. More recently they’ve also become a staple in the world of sport, have been used as therapy animals and, perhaps above all, have won many a heart as faithful companions.

And yet there is also a dark side to our history with horses, with mankind often treating these dedicated animals with cruelty and contempt. In recent years, stories of their neglect and abandonment have also continued to rise as some owners have found the cost of looking after them simply too much to cope with.

National Help A Horse Day was started by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 2014, but its origin dates back much further to the creation of the ASPCA itself. It all started in 1863 when Henry Bergh, an American diplomat posted in Russia, saved a horse from being abused by a carriage driver. The owner responsible was arrested on 26 April that year for his mistreatment of the animal, the first time this had ever occurred, and Bergh went on to found the ASPCA in 1866. National Help A Horse Day therefore honors this significant date for the ASPCA and horses everywhere.

The society now hosts an annual Help a Horse Home Challenge to mark the occasion – the challenge is a nationwide competition for horse shelter and rescue centers, with the winners receiving a generous grant to further their work. And National Help A Horse Day has spread both in the US and internationally, with people all over the world celebrating these amazing equines and raising awareness of the cruelty and neglect they can be subject to.

Why horses need our help

Given their loyal and caring nature, it’s no surprise that horses are a popular pet. Yet due to their size and complex needs, they can be pretty expensive to care for. Sadly this leads to many horses being neglected or abandoned, sometimes by unfeeling owners but often by well-intentioned ones who simply no longer have the resources to cope. Neglected horses may lack the sustenance, shelter, medical treatment and enrichment they need for high-quality and fulfilled lives. Some may even be abandoned elsewhere and left to their own devices in a practice known as “fly-grazing”.

Pet horses are only part of the issue, however. Perhaps far more of a threat are unscrupulous breeders and dealers who churn out these animals by the dozen with only their pockets in mind and no thought for the horses’ welfare. This is why stricter animal protection laws and regulations are needed to prevent such heartless exploitation of these creatures.

Sport is another area in which horses can be maltreated – horse racing, for example, can be dangerous for the animals, with many put down if they are injured as they are then considered a mere expense. Similarly, working horses are at risk of abuse and exploitation, again by businesses determined to make a profit over all other considerations. Rescue centers and sanctuaries are therefore vital for helping horses, by saving them from harsh conditions and providing them with safe new homes.

The horse meat trade is another controversial area, with many opposed to its consumption. It’s illegal in various parts of the world, particularly the US, and over the years various concerns have been raised about the quality and source of the meat.

Wild horses are also at risk. Well-loved as a symbol of freedom, there are issues with how overpopulation is managed, with “mustangs” in the US often captured and placed in holding pens. Humane solutions are needed to ensure that wild equines can thrive as well as their domesticated counterparts.

How to celebrate National Help A Horse Day

National Help A Horse Day is your chance to make a real positive contribution to the care and protection of horses. Send a donation to an equine charity, sanctuary or rescue center of your choice or volunteer for one near you if you can spare the time! Another great way to bring about change is to sign petitions demanding better care for these faithful friends who have served us so well over the centuries.

If you come across a neglected or abandoned horse, then be sure to get in touch with a local animal welfare organization who will be able to rehabilitate and rehome it. And if you have the space and inclination, why not consider fostering or even adopting a horse yourself?

Take time out of your day to find out more about these charming creatures and the threats they face – be sure to share what you find out with family, friends, colleagues and your social media following so that many more people will be inspired to give vulnerable horses the help they need. Check out some of the many excellent horse documentaries available, such as Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O’Hyde, which follows a cowboy’s struggle to protect wild horses in the US, and Equus: Story of the Horse, which details mankind’s relationship with these animals over the years.

If you’re lucky enough to live near horses or perhaps even have a four-legged companion of your own, then National Help A Horse Day is a great opportunity to show them some extra love. Share an apple, carrot or sugar cube with a local horse you know and take them for a ride or trek (all with its owner’s permission of course!).Be sure to spread the word this National Help A Horse Day to give equines everywhere the best chance at a happy, healthy future. All they need is a helping hand (after all, most of them are already at least 10 hands high!) to enjoy a better life.

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