Horse in a field of buttercups in the English Cotswold countryside.

My saddlebags are packed, now where should I live?

Written by JENNY SHARP

Horse ready for transport.
My tack is packed. Where should I live?

With the world economic climate as it is, things are looking grim for horses, worldwide.

Even traditionally horse-friendly countries like Ireland and Spain are seeing an increasingly large number of horses suffering because of the economic downturn. Where previously horses were part of everyday life, they are now becoming a financial burden, and farmers and breeders are either sending them for slaughter, or setting them loose. It’s not a good picture.

In fact, upon investigation, there are few countries which have a snow-white reputation when it comes to horse welfare, with USA parcels getting more consideration than some horses who are transported across long distances. But, on balance, where would be the best country to live, if you were a horse?

Here are some light-hearted suggestions. You decide.

United Kingdom

Horse in a field of buttercups in the English Cotswold countryside.
Horse in a field of buttercups in the English Cotswold countryside.

It’s cold and wet, and you can’t gallop along the beaches, but the UK is actually one of the most horse friendly countries in the world today.

With a history of aristocrats owning and breeding horses, equine culture is strong. The RSPCA (Royal Society For the Protection of Animals) is very proactive in the UK and it’s not common for horses to be severely neglected. Known as a ‘nation of animal lovers’, public vigilance on animal welfare is high.

World renown for pioneering veterinary research, and specialist equine veterinary teaching facilities, there are few better countries to be a horse than in the United Kingdom, although a rainproof coat is an advisable accessory.

Cons: Horses are slaughtered in the UK for human consumption in Europe. Plus there are issues, as with many European countries, surrounding the long distance export of horses for slaughter. However, pressure groups have made headway in changing the law in recent years.

United States

As with the UK, there is a strong cultural tradition in favour of horses in the US. Veterinary standards are high, too, as are animal welfare charities. With acres of land to roam on and graze, US horses are amongst the most pampered in the world, simply because the per capita income is the one of the highest. Horses are not kept as work engines as they are in less developed countries, so they are less likely to die from exhaustion and ill health. Culturally horse meat is unacceptable still. Horses are not killed for human consumption here.

If your owner is wealthy, you could do a lot worse than find yourself in a sunny US state, such as California.

Cons: While horses are no longer slaughtered for human consumption overseas in the US, there are reportedly 140,000 horses sent across her borders to Mexico and Canada for slaughter per year. Welfare concerns about the use of horses in the racing industry is escalating, where fatalities are very high.


Afternoon excursion. A Horse, the Steppe and the Sky. Mongolia.
Afternoon excursion. A Horse, the Steppe and the Sky. Mongolia.

If you are a horse without pretensions, and you like to work hard, then Mongolia could be the place for you.

Horses are honoured in Mongolian culture, where a common expression is ‘A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without wings’. Horses are part of the fabric of life here, and they take their chances with the rest of the family, in the harsh environment.

Mongolian horses live outside all year round, and are left to forage for their own food, as is the tradition. They do well on it however, as they outnumber the human population. The extremes of temperature seem astonishing, but Mongolian horses thrive on it. By nature wild Mongolian horses are no fools; they are crafty survivors who live freely. Those that are domesticated enjoy a rich full working life riding with nomads, and are known for their calm, willing nature.

Free spirited horses who like to walk on the wild side would be happy here.

Cons: Horses are sometimes slaughtered for meat in Mongolia, but this is more from necessity than choice and is becoming less common.


Although harsh economic times have led to more horse owners unable to look after their animals, there is a strong tradition of horse ownership in Ireland which goes back over centuries. As with Spain, horses are in the blood. The Irish know horses like fellow family members, and the accumulated wisdom of the ages shows in their affection for and understanding of horses.

It’s rough and ready for horses in Ireland, usually without the advantages of swanky high end stables. A patch of field is more common, but the warmth and affection towards horses and their total acceptance within the culture makes up for a great deal. Horses only really care if they are loved and cared for, which they are in Ireland. The high-class stall matters less than being part of the family, and being cared for as such.

Ireland does not accept horse meat for human consumption, and veterinary standards are high here too.

Large and somewhat chaotic horse fairs, illegal road horse racing and the rough and tumble of Irish life would suit a bombproof horse, who is not afraid to get his hooves dirty. It’s not ideal, but it’s warm and welcoming.

Cons: Chaotic horse fairs, and illegal road racing! Horse slaughter for human consumption has become a growth industry.

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Horses abandoned, slaughtered in Europe as economics also hurt US horses >>

7 thoughts on “My saddlebags are packed, now where should I live?”

  1. Mongolia sounds better than any of the others. The chances of you being eaten are very slim, and at least it’s a last resort sort of thing. Not like the horse eaters in Europe or elsewhere who consider it a delicacy. Horse meat eaters are what drives the horse meat and slaughter industry; no horse eaters, no horse slaughter.


    1. Exactly; that is the bottom line. Eliminate the horse meat as food aspect and there would be no market, as we know it, for horse meat. The demand is not for old and sickly horses but rather for the young, healthy and well-muscled. Contrary to what uninformed individuals believe the vast majority of horses that go to slaughter are exactly those that the breeding industry continue to spew out every year – the ones that are expendable as they don’t make the grade. Breeding 100,000 horses or whatever to produce a couple of superstars is simply not acceptable nor is it sustainable. The racing and horse breeding industry, in any of its forms, is no different than factory farming; it is simply masked in a more elegant, or acceptable if you will, venue. At least to those ignorant individuals that continue to believe that this is tolerable.


  2. The safety should be with each individual horse owner…..We should never take an animal that we can’t take care of……NO MATTER WHAT COUNTRY!!!!…We as intelligent human beings need to be responsible………Slaughter is NOT and should NOT be an option……..Our horses should be loved no matter what country we are in…..Own up to being responsible our horses need and deserve it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. You don’t have to go across the ocean. Here in Quebec (where we are slaughtering half of the over 60 per cent of your US horses across Canada), you might want to take a look. It ain’t pretty.


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