Penalties for illegal farriery have been branded “derisory” by the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) after a Chilean polo pony producer was fined just £200 for shoeing his own horses.

On 4 August, Reading Magistrates Court fined Antonio Saavedra, of Shinfield, after an investigator for the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) saw him shoeing one of his ponies on 4 February. He has no farriery qualification.

Only registered farriers, apprentices or a vet are allowed to legally shoe a horse.

The maximum fine for illegal shoeing is £1,000, but magistrates rarely sentence at that level.

David Woodd, HPA chief executive, said although the HPA has no further evidence that illegal farriery goes on in polo, there may be a problem.

“You do hear that some of the South American grooms who are here may shoe their employer’s horses when a farrier can’t be found,” he said.

Mr Saavedra is not a current member of the HPA. He ran Mucho Polo Ponies, a company that rented out polo ponies to riders.

The company was wound up in April after trading for just one year and Mr Saavedra is thought to have since left the UK. He did not return calls from H&H.

“This fine is pathetic,” added Mr Woodd. “It’s not a deterrent — you could earn £200 in 40 minutes shoeing a horse.”

Felicity Heather, of the FRC, said the council has written to the Magistrates Association and the Justice Clerks Society stressing how serious illegal farriery can be for welfare.

The FRC is discussing raising the maximum fine to £5,000 with Defra, but a Defra spokesman said there were no plans to update the Act.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (26 August, ’10)