A rider was left in floods of tears and an owner “demoralised” when they were subjected to “abuse” about their horse.

Michelle Whitehead’s nine-year-old Friesian mare Demy Von Gosveld (Demy) was competing in a medium class with Michelle’s friend Natalie Clarke at a recent competition.

Paul Whitehead equine photography

They were about to enter the ring when a spectator spoke to Mrs Whitehead about her horse.

“He asked me, ‘Wouldn’t you be better off with a cart?’ and it continued from that point,” Mrs Whitehead told H&H.

“Then he said, ‘At least you can be 20 stone and ride one [like that]’. I told him to get lost, but didn’t realise my friend had heard.

Paul Whitehead equine photography

“She went into the ring in tears, she was like a rabbit in the headlights and couldn’t finish her test.

“Demy is the kindest, most genuine horse you will ever meet. Everyone who meets her loves her.

“These comments, in earshot of Natalie, who was very nervous, were upsetting and demoralising.”

Paul Whitehead equine photography

Mrs Whitehead owns three Friesians who are all graded.

“My horses are sport Friesians who were bred for dressage, not driving,” she said. “Yes they move differently, but they are amazing horses with a huge heart and willingness to please.

“All my horses are kept at home and it is testament to their good nature that I can keep two stallions next to a mare with no problem.

Paul Whitehead equine photography

“Friesians compete at grand prix. I wonder if people [who make nasty comments] have ever seen what they can really do.”

It was not the first time Mrs Whitehead has experienced unpleasant comments about one of her horses.

At a young horse class last year she was subjected to “similar abuse” by a fellow dressage rider about her stallion Nick Van De Olijftak (Nick).

Paul Whitehead equine photography

The six-year-old by Uldrik 457 was bought by Mrs Whitehead as a four-year-old from De Nieuwe Heuvel stud.

“I wanted to take my stallion to see how he would do,” she said.

“One of the competitors, an international rider, told me very loudly to move ‘it’ out of the way.

“I just wanted to go home. I was terrified but I got in there and ended up beating her.”

Continued below…



Ms Clarke posted details of the most recent unpleasant comments on Facebook and has received an outpouring of support.

“We’ve had thousands of comments of encouragement,” added Mrs Whitehead. “It shows people are appalled by this unkindness, regardless of what Natalie was riding.”

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

This week’s edition (26 April), features a full Badminton preview, including a cross-country course walk with Mary King and full form guide for every horse and rider.