WORLD HORSE Welfare has announced the continued closure of all its UK visitor centres until 2021.

Following the temporary closure of its Rescue and Rehoming Centres in Aberdeenshire, Norfolk, Somerset and Lancashire due to the Covid pandemic, the international horse charity has decided to keep all centres closed to the public until February half-term in 2021.

CEO of the charity, Roly Owers, said: “We so very much want to be able to welcome everyone back, but we need to put the safety of our staff and the public first. While we love having visitors on site, without doubt this adds additional risk in terms of keeping our Centres ‘Covid-secure’.

"The protective measures we would need to put in place would also inevitably involve taking valuable time from the yard and Visitor Centre staff to ensure measures were being followed," he continued. "As we have recently been able to start rehoming our horses again, our yard staff are busy once more with rehabilitation work. The charity’s priority over the coming months has to be the rehabilitation and rehoming of our horses as each horse that is rehomed makes a space available for another animal in need. With all four farms currently at full capacity, making space available for the large number of welfare cases expected later in the year is vital,” he concluded.

Another challenge facing the centres would be the steps that would have to be taken to ensure social distancing and high levels of biosecurity are in place, which would limit the number of visitors that could be welcomed at any one time and, when balanced against the additional costs, would make opening far less viable.

Zoe Clifford of Penny Farm in Lancashire said: “We are really missing our visitors, many of whom we ordinarily see so regularly they feel more like family. We know that our farm and our horses have a place in people’s hearts as well as the local community, but we have to put the safety of our staff and our visitors first. We will be keeping in touch with everyone through social media, our Facebook page will post updates and let people know about virtual events we will be holding.”

“We are certainly looking forward to welcoming everyone back to the farm, and there will be celebrations when we do, but in the meantime our focus is on rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming as many horses as possible.”

World Horse Welfare will continue to keep everyone informed of the latest information on its website where supporters are also able to sign up for a free e-newsletter. Regular updates can be found on the charity’s main Facebook page and on each centre’s own Facebook pages, where the progress of some of the rescued horses can also be followed.