As the richer countries are struggling to come to grips with some unprecedented economic downturn, horse owners are swallowing their pride and opting to have them put down.
They just cannot afford to such status symbols any more, it seems. A leading UK animal charity has seen a five-fold increase in the number contacting them for help and have advised most that the best possible option is to eliminate the horses.
AdvertisementThe Horse Trust said it had seen a 20 per cent increase in the owners who are struggling to find homes for old horses.
The Trust website cites this instance: Dorothy Shaw, 63, from Wollaton, Nottingham is delighted to have found a new home for her elderly pony Rosie, after a bereavement meant she could no longer afford Rosie's upkeep.
Dorothy looked to The Horse Trust for help when her husband Peter died in July 2008.
"When my husband suddenly died of a heart attack I couldn't afford to keep Rosie any more. He had always paid for her upkeep - I'm only living on a pension so can't afford it on my own," said Dorothy.
Although Dorothy misses Rosie, she is grateful to have found a place at the sanctuary. The Horse Trust provides lifetime sanctuary for more than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys from many different backgrounds, the website, proudly proclaims. But it all could become a thing of past.
For the charity has been forced to stop taking in any more horses as donations dry up and stables are stretched to breaking point.
The Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) also says there has been an increase in all kinds of animals in need of re-homing in recent months as a direct result of the recession.
Liane Crowther, a welfare and education officer for The Horse Trust, told Caroline Grant of Daily Mail, 'The number of calls we have been taking from people struggling to pay for their horses has definitely increased.
'These are people who have older horses that they cannot rehome or sell on.
Unfortunately the advice I give most of them is that the best option is to put the horse down.'
The charity will still take emergency welfare cases, but Miss Crowther added: 'To protect the welfare of the horses we already have, we can't take on any more.'
Horses can be put down with a lethal injection or by being shot in the head.
Paul Jepson, chief executive and veterinary director of The Horse Trust, said: 'We simply can't afford to take in any more animals at the moment.
'It costs us more than Ģ17 a day to keep a horse here and with people donating less, we have no option but to close our doors to new horses temporarily.
'Owners simply can't find anyone who is willing to take on an older horse, so euthanasia is often the only option they have.'
The Horse Trust, founded in 1886 and based in Speen, Buckinghamshire, is the oldest horse charity in the UK.
In the last six months, applications to rehouse unwanted horses has risen to more than 100 every month - up more than 20 per cent from the same period last year.
Miss Crowther added: 'Every day I hear another story from someone who has been affected by the credit crunch and is distraught about what to do with their horse.
'One caller I spoke to recently was a contractor who hadn't been paid as his main client had gone bust. Another had been made redundant and was now living off his partner's
'It's so hard to tell them that we can't help and that they may have to put down their horse...'
Sally Learoyd, an equine rehoming officer for the RSPCA, said they would agree with the advice.
'We say it is the last good turn you can do your horse,' she said.
'Old horses are like old people and they don't react very well to being moved around.
'Many people are reluctant to sell their horses on to dealers and see them moved from pillar to post and others simply cannot find anyone to buy them.
'Putting down the horse is very quick and painless.'