Irish pony racing on Ballyloughane beach, Co Galway, is under threat after the local council branded it “cruel”.

Locals have reported that the ponies are being flogged and forced to gallop through the water with carts. The same offenders have blocked up stretches of the nearby dual carriageway and raced the ponies up the road.

Local councillor Terry O’Flaherty has received a large number of complaints from the public and has referred the matter to the police and Irish Society for the Prevention against Cruelty to Animals.

The Millstreet Garda (local police) are involved but their concerns are focused on illegal road closures rather than animal welfare.

Margaret O’Sullivan, public relations officer for the Galway Society for the Prevention against Cruelty to Animals, said that it was a matter for the Garda.

“People from the travelling community are racing their ponies up and down the roads,” she said. “Even on the beach, these ponies really aren’t fit to gallop. But we cannot stop them doing it — it’s up to the Garda.”