Stallions banned from fly-grazing site in Colney Heath to protect horses’ welfare

Ponies in Colney Heath

Ponies in Colney Heath - Credit: Photo supplied

Stallions have been banned from Smallford Pits where travellers’ ponies have been left to graze and roam onto busy nearby roads, leading to many complaints from residents concerned about their welfare.

St Albans district council’s community safety scrutiny working group recently spoke about fly-grazing at the Colney Heath site - near the A414 - part of which is owned by Herts county council.

An officer’s report for the group, which met last Thursday (7), said that there had been a “number of issues with horses escaping from land in the vicinity of the A414; horse welfare has also been a major concern”.

The county’s property and gypsy section has been working with the district council and Herts Police to develop a grazing licence between the former authority and a local resident, to tackle the problem.

The licence provides for a maximum number of 30 horses on the land, with no stallions.

There are also clauses preventing any other use of the land, with access reserved for police officers and RSPCA and council officials to enter at any time and the animals’ welfare to be maintained by their owners.

All boundary fencing has to be repaired and maintained by the licensee.

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Other important conditions set out before the licence was granted included having the ponies inspected, microchipped, and issued with equine passports.

The county council agreed to fence off a substantial perimeter section, to prevent the ponies from escaping onto the A414, and be struck by cars.

Should there be any problems, the licensee has given the police phone numbers and agreed to 24/7 contact.

According to the report: “The licence can be terminated if breached. All parties involved in this negotiation are hopeful that this will greatly reduce instances of loose horses, fly-grazing and will assist in improving the overall welfare of the horses involved.”

The Herts Advertiser has carried many articles about travellers’ horses escaping from the fields and the RSPCA being called to investigate complaints about welfare concerns. Scores of horses have been euthanised or injured in collisions or removed from the A414 over the past few years.

At one stage there were 50 horses roaming free illegally at the site.

In a recent statement, the RSPCA told this newspaper that the charity was ‘aware’ of the horses in Colney Heath and an inspector has been monitoring them for several months.

“We visit the site weekly.”

The charity, working with the British Horse Society, Herts Police and local authorities to improve the horses’ welfare, also arranged a microchipping and passport day to ensure the animals can be properly identified in future.