WALKERS are being warned of the dangers of feeding horses while they are out taking their daily exercise.

Police have received a number of reports of people feeding horses in fields around Stow-on-the-Wold.

PCSO Josh Allen is warning walkers of the dangers of feeding horses that they see out in the fields as they stroll past.

In a community alert sent to residents, PCSO Allen said: "Over-feeding (feeding more energy than is used by the horse) on a long-term basis leads to obesity, which can result in serious welfare problems and can affect health.

"Horses are naturally grazers who eat little and often. Their natural diet is mainly grasses, which have a high roughage (fibre) content.

"The quantity of concentrates fed to a horse as supplementary feed in addition to any forage should be no more than that necessary to provide the required energy for the type and quantity of exercise performed or for any required weight gain.

"Feeding excessive concentrates can contribute to health problems such as obesity, gastrointestinal upset and laminitis."

Polly Portwin, an equine enthusiast and spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: "As a general rule, unless you are aware of the horse and its dietary requirements, you should not feed other people’s horses full-stop.

"Unfortunately, we hear very distressing stories of horses being made incredibly ill and dying from being fed the wrong food by walkers who come across a horse out in the field.

"It could be easy to assume horses can consume and digest much of the same foods enjoyed by humans or other animals, but that simply isn’t the case.

"Aside from dietary considerations, it is well known that a horse’s behaviour can change incredibly quickly, especially around food.

"Competition to get to food and the source, can occasionally lead to some horses reacting aggressively towards other horses that are around them, which could put the person feeding them and those accompanying them such as children or dogs, in a vulnerable position.

"It’s important to remember that livestock and horses are part of people’s livelihoods and while, where it is permitted, they can be admired from a safe distance, passers-by should avoid offering them any food. The risks are just far too great."