Jail and equine ban for man who worked pony to exhaustion at Appleby Horse Fair
Robert Michael Hunter from Leeds has been jailed for causing suffering to a pony he overworked to the point of exhaustion at last year’s Appleby Horse Fair, Cumbria. Little Ginger also had mouth injuries.
He pleaded guilty to three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – two of causing unnecessary suffering to Little Ginger by failing to provide routine dentistry and overworking him. The third offence was failing to meet his needs by not providing routine dentistry and worming*.
Hunter was sentenced to 90 days in prison and disqualified from keeping equines for six years, suspended for six months to give time to sell or rehome his horses. He was also deprived of Little Ginger. He was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor said: “Little Ginger (feature image) was found to be severely exhausted, suffering from hyperthermia and dehydration as a result of being overworked and needed immediate veterinary treatment.
“He was very dull with his head held low and barely responding. He was standing but didn’t want to move. Vets said his temperature and breathing rate were both severely raised and his heart rate was dangerously increased.
“He was put on a drip and given drugs to help bring the hyperthermia under control but it took him hours to recover.
“If the owner had carried on working this pony he probably would have collapsed.
“On top of that, when vets examined him further they found he had trauma to the inside of both cheeks due to his teeth not being rasped.”
In mitigation, the court heard that Hunter respects the work of the RSPCA and had only run Little Ginger up and down the hill once. With regards to Little Ginger’s teeth he said that he was overweight so wasn’t struggling to eat or showing any difficulties with his bit.
The cob gelding was taken into the care of World Horse Welfare (pictured left) and they will now be able to prepare him for adoption.
World Horse Welfare Penny Farm Yard Supervisor, Karen Wright, said: “Ginger is doing really well and has thrived through his rehabilitation. He’s a lovely character who gets on well with his equine and human companions and loves nothing more than grazing out in the field. He’s very happy go lucky and has great potential as a riding or driving pony in the future.”
The cardiac recovery index test – which is widely used in the endurance field to assess horses’ fitness to go on working and levels of recovery – was brought in at last year’s Appleby Horse Fair to check the condition of horses who vets were concerned about.
RSPCA Inspector Taylor said: “We will be using the tests again at this year’s fair.
“We very much want to educate owners to ensure that they’re resting their horses and providing them with a drink but we aren’t going to tolerate them being overworked to exhaustion.
“If they look like they are, we will be pulling people up on it, as we did here.”
This year’s Appleby Horse Fair is taking place between 6 – 12 June and RSPCA officers, along with our partner equine charities, will be in attendance as always.