A rider banned from taking part in training and competition at one an equestrian centre because she rides a mule has jokingly described the venue as “earist”.

Sarah Hemmings, from Northamptonshire, says she has taken part in events across the UK on her nine-year-old mare Honey with no issue, so she was surprised to be told she could not take part in today’s (3 March) trec training and a forthcoming competition at Willicote Equestrian Centre.

“I can’t believe it,” Sarah told H&H. “Now I know what it’s like to be discriminated against as a minority – they’re earists!”

Sarah has owned Honey, the unexpected result of a dalliance between a well-bred Holsteiner mare and an enterprising donkey stallion — who were kept in a steeply sloping field — for seven years.

“We’ve been everywhere and never had a problem,” she said.

“We’ve done the Burghley sponsored ride, fun rides; I’ve been a member of Central Trec Group for three to four years and have never had a problem; they’ve been absolutely brilliant.

“But this centre has said I can’t bring her there as she’ll frighten the horses.”

Sarah said she has at times seen horses who are unsure of Honey, but that after they have had a good look at her, they are not scared.

“I’ve made at least one good friend from it,” she said. “There was one lady who asked if she could bring her horse to my [yard] so he could meet her; everything was fine and I made a friend.

“What most people ask is if they can introduce their horses to her. I always ask if they want me to stay still so they can come up to her and usually, after they’ve had a sniff, that’s the end of it.

“These people at the competition could meet me riding her any time on the road; surely it’s better in a closed environment?”

David Stephenson, who owns the venue, told H&H it is primarily a livery yard, which is occasionally hired to others to run events.

“We rented it to some trec people four to five years ago and they had a donkey or a mule,” he said. “Unfortunately, when it was calling and making a noise, it upset the horses on the yard, causing them to run around.

“Thankfully, no one got injured but this time, a few weeks after this booking, I remembered one of these animals had attended and I asked the organiser to ask anyone intending to bring one to refrain.

“I have a duty of care to my liveries and their horses, and the general public, and wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.”

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Mr Stephenson said he could understand the disappointment felt by someone who initially thought she was able to take part in an event being told she could not.

“I never set out to discriminate against anyone,” he added. “I’m all for people enjoying the sport, and horses, and the last thing I want is to cause anyone distress.”

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