Horse Welfare and Rescue in Ireland

It is perhaps the hidden side of the equine industry in Ireland, but unfortunately horse welfare remains a problem in Ireland, with an estimated 100 rescues being taken in by the largest equine charity per year.

IHWT logo

One of the biggest challenges facing all animal welfare charities in the country is the lack of funding, along with limited recognition at government level as to the problems facing many different breeds of animal in this country.

Trying to address this problem and raise more awareness is one of the largest equine specific animal charities in Ireland. This is the Irish Horse Welfare Trust which was established in 1999.


The Irish Horse Welfare Trust

One of the main horse welfare and rescue charities in Ireland is the Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT). They work with approximately 70 horses at their centre in Co. Wicklow.

The following video gives an overview of some of the work that they are involved in.

In order to raise awareness about how to look after horses properly, the IHWT runs a number of educational and awareness programmes.


IHWT Education Programme

The IHWT undertakes education programmes especially with members of the Traveller community and other communities that keep horses.

The purpose of these programmes is to ensure that horses that are kept, often within community settings, are looked after properly. There has been a lot of media publicity about the conditions that some of these horses have been left in and the IHWT has taken a proactive approach to working alongside the communities.


The Ex-Race Horse programme

One of the biggest programmes the IHWT is involved with is the re-training of ex-racehorses. This is a jointly managed programme and funded by the Irish Race Horse Trainers and Horse Racing Ireland.

It takes nearly 9 months for a former race horse to be retrained but with constant handling and being introduced to a new diet and exercise regime it can be done.


Re-Homing Horses

However the biggest portion of their time is spent working with rescued horses and getting them to a stage where they can be re-homed with families and equine families throughout the country.

The IHWT works with horses in their care for as long as it takes until they reach a point where they can be re-homed.

rehoming horses at IHWT

Examples of these horses can be seen here with Poppet.

Poppet was found abandoned as a young horse and is now 7 years old. She has been working through the IHWT and is now well handled and able to be re-homed.



As well as education the other form of awareness raising is through media campaigns and calls for signatories or lobbying letters to politicians.

One of the campaigns that the IHWT is very involved in is to enforce the animal welfare legislation, especially for horses that are transported long distances for slaughter.

Over 65,000 horses are transported across Europe for slaughter instead of being slaughtered in their home country. The end result is that horses have to suffer from dehydration, lack of rest and the trauma of being improperly transported.

"EU Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005 has serious deficiencies and some Member 
States do not rigorously enforce it, resulting in exhaustion, injury, 
pain and stress among horses who make these unnecessary journeys." IHWT Website

This is an international issue but it affects horses from many countries including Ireland. The IHWT calls on all its members to support the campaign for a more humane way to slaughter horses.


Reporting Equine Welfare Cases

The IHWT work with limited resources and only have one full time paid inspector with five other volunteers. They tend to focus most of their work on the East coast of Ireland. Despite this nearly 100 cases are dealt with each year and this doesn’t include all the work undertaken by other animal charities throughout the rest of Ireland.

If you feel there is a case that they would interested in you can use the following contact details or visit their website directly

PHONE: 0402 30773

Before making a compliant the centre will require the following information.

1. A description of the equine or equines involved.
2. The precise location of the equine or equines.
3. The name and address of the person you believe may be responsible for the cruelty or neglect.
4. The name and address of the person who owns the land where the equine or equines are being kept.

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