Appleby Horse Fair warning as owner admits working pony to ‘point of exhaustion’

  • The owner of a pony who was worked “to the point of exhaustion” at Appleby Horse Fair has been jailed, as others are warned that overworking “will not be tolerated” at this year’s event.

    Robert Michael Hunter, 34, of Scott Hall Road, Leeds, pleaded guilty to three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 relating to cob Little Ginger, at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (26 March).

    Two related to Hunter’s care of the gelding between June 2016 and June 2018, the third to June 2018, when he caused Little Ginger unnecessary suffering by overworking him at the horse fair.

    RSPCA inspector Lyndsey Taylor said: “Little Ginger 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.”

    Little Ginger was put on a drip and given drugs to 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,” said the inspector.

    Little Ginger was taken into the care of the World Horse Welfare where he is “thriving”.

    World Horse Welfare Penny Farm yard supervisor Karen Wright said: “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 future.”

    The RSPCA said cardiac recovery index tests, widely used in endurance, which assess a horse’s fitness to go on working and levels of recovery, were brought in at Appleby Horse Fair last year to check the condition of horses vets were “concerned” about.

    “We will be using the tests again at this year’s fair,” said Ms Taylor.

    “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 horses’ being overworked to exhaustion.

    “If they look like they are, we will be pulling people up on it, as we did here.”

    The court heard Hunter respects the work of the RSPCA and had only run Little Ginger up and down a hill once. With regards to the gelding’s teeth he said that he was overweight so was not struggling to eat or showing any issues with his bit.

    Hunter was jailed for 90 days. He is banned from keeping equines for six years, suspended for six months to give him time to sell or rehome his other horses. He was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

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