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

Since the start of the pandemic and during the three national lockdowns, there has been an increase in people visiting the countryside.

Although taking daily exercise and getting outside is encouraged, both Dorset Police and the Countryside Alliance are warning walkers of the dangers of feeding horses and livestock that they see out in the fields as they stroll past.

In other parts of the country, horses have become very unwell and, sadly, even died after being fed the wrong food by walkers.

A spokesman for Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “During the national coronavirus lockdown which is currently in place, we have seen a huge number of people who have been staying local and taking to the countryside to carry out their exercise using a great number of our rights of way across Dorset, which is good to see but please do bear in mind and respect our wonderful Dorset countryside and the animals that live there.

“Please do not feed any animals that live in the countryside.

"Take horses for instance, they can sometimes be on special diets and also can mistake your fingertips for food and nip them - also any type of food, grass cuttings and other plants can make horses extremely ill and can lead to death.”

Polly Portwin, of 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.”