Reasons for performing study: UK leisure horses are owned primarily for riding. Ridden behaviour problems may compromise the use of the horse in this role and lead to harsh redress or relinquishment of the horse. Despite the consequences of these problems little is known about their prevalence or the working lives of UK leisure horses.
Objectives: To generate data on the work undertaken by leisure horses, the equipment and training practices used with them and prevalence of ridden behaviour problems.
Methods: An internet survey was used to generate horse-level data from a convenience sample of leisure horse carers. Respondents were asked to report on their practices in the week prior to the survey's completion to minimise recall bias. The survey was online for one year to allow for seasonal variation in practices. Data were collected on the tack and equipment used on the horse, the regularity that professional services (e.g. farriers) were used, type of training employed and frequency the owner reported that horse displayed 15 ridden behaviour problems.
Results: The survey generated data on 1326 individual horses. Data describing practices relating to the horse's working life are presented. Ridden behaviour problems were reported in 91% of horses in the week preceding data collection.
Conclusions and potential relevance: Descriptive data on the working lives of UK leisure horses provides valuable baseline statistics for this largest section of the UK horse population. High prevalence of owner-reported ridden behaviour problems represents a concern in such leisure horses and may indicate significant rider safety and horse welfare concerns.