Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.

In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.

Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.

Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.

* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.

Explaining pet loss to children

Pets often become beloved members of the family, and when they die, the loss can be very traumatic. From hamsters, to cats, dogs, horses and everything in between, no matter what the animal, losing a beloved pet in never easy and it is only natural to grieve.

How do I approach this delicate subject?

Unfortunately, our pets don't live as long as we do, so a child will usually experience the loss of a pet before reaching adulthood. It is important to recognise the impact a pet can have on your child's life and preparing your child for the loss is important for helping your child cope with grief when the time comes.

When a beloved pet dies or is euthanased, it is important to recognise our feelings of bereavement and to express them. Families often have a pet for a number of years, so children grow up with the pet as part of the family.

What shall I do?

If your child is particularly attached to a family pet, the loss can be very traumatic. Honesty is the best policy! Your child will want to understand what has happened, so you should explain the death to your child, using language appropriate for your child's age; however, don't say that the pet was "put to sleep" as this may make your child afraid of going to sleep.

Your child will need time to grieve and may want to memorialise their pet by making a scrapbook, having a memorial service, sharing funny memories, or frame a special picture; these will help your child focus on happy memories!

Is there anyone who can help me?

Your vet will be able to help; it may even be helpful for your vet to talk to your child too. You should let your child's teachers at school know what has happened as they may start so show behavioural changes or signs of depression, in which case they may need to speak to a professional counsellor.

Lots of veterinary schools offer a pet-loss support hotline, you may have a local support groups or could find a group on social media that can help you. There are also some good sources of information on pet loss on the internet too.