The rider who shared video of Sir Mark Todd hitting her horse during a training clinic walked out of a previous job at a livery yard after she was threatened with dismissal for “hitting and kicking” horses, it has been claimed.
H&H was contacted about these claims and has seen a letter sent to the rider by her employers in April 2019, a record of a discussion in which two specific allegations were raised: cyber-bullying of people and apparently witnessed abuse of five named horses, “hitting and kicking” them. The letter adds that any further evidence of abusing or bullying animals or people would be gross misconduct and that she would be dismissed.
Yard owner Susan MacKenzie told H&H the rider walked out of the meeting and did not return to work.
“Some of the things she did were outrageous,” Ms MacKenzie said. “A big thing was the way she treated the horses.” Ms MacKenzie claims that “several liveries saw her kicking and hitting the horses… so I find this current situation ridiculous.”
Ms MacKenzie said the meeting in April was the second at which incidents of kicking and hitting horses, as well as other issues, were raised with the rider.
“One of our big rules on the yard is no bullying, of animals or people,” she said. “I told her, ‘This has to stop, I can’t have a staff member kicking and hitting horses’.”
Ms MacKenzie added that she does not condone what Mark did in the video, but questioned why the rider had released it.
Sharon Smith, who kept a horse on livery at the yard when the rider worked there, claims she had seen her kicking and hitting horses.
“I don’t condone what Mark Todd did but coming from someone who’s been abusive to horses, it’s just not on.” she said.
The rider told H&H she had no comment to make on the horse abuse claims, and that she had no recollection of the incidents described by Sharon, adding: “I worked there over two years ago.”
In a video interview with a US “animal activist”, the rider said she “never consented for that to happen to my horse”, in reference to the incident in the video.
She added: “There was no permission, therefore it shouldn’t have been done and that’s what needs to be held accountable… I never gave any permission for my horse to be hit with anything”.
The rider said she hoped the thing people would learn from her video was that “if there’s something you believe is wrong, it needs to be highlighted” and that “if you feel something is wrong, it most likely is”. She added that “You can’t be using these techniques against horses” and that people “absolutely need to be an advocate for your horse”.
You might also be interested in:
As national anti-bullying week comes to a close, more needs to be done to combat the problem across the equestrian
Organisers want to 'change attitudes' within the equestrian world, and raise awareness of bullying in person and online
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.