Small pony showed ‘all the signs of exhaustion’ – second death at Appleby as overworking rife

  • A second equine died at Appleby Horse Fair, it has been confirmed, as overworking of horses was a “significant welfare issue” at this year’s event.

    H&H reported on the three-year-old who was “worked to death” last Wednesday (5 June) but the RSPCA said a Shetland also died on Saturday, showing “all the signs of exhaustion” – and that had temperatures been higher, there could well have been more deaths.

    RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “There are a lot of wonderful people and animals at the fair, who it’s really enjoyable to meet and get to know. You only need look at the Appleby Horse Project’s Best at Appleby Awards, which celebrate horse health, happiness and horsemanship.

    “Unfortunately, there is also an element of people who think it’s okay to drive horses to the point of exhaustion, and disappointingly we’ve seen the most serious results of that this week.

    “Everyone knows about the horse who died at Jubilee Bridge on Wednesday, but we had a Shetland pony who died in the residential section at the back of the Trade Field on Saturday too, which showed all the signs of exhaustion.”

    Mr Melloy said the charity believes much of the overworking was happening overnight, but not reported.

    “And we had to deal with the consequences the day after,” he said. “In the case of the Shetland, we were called to the stallion early in the morning, and suspect he was overworked in the evening.

    “A lot of our warnings and interactions were about exhaustion and if the weather had been a little bit hotter we may have been talking about more than these two deaths.”

    The RSPCA recorded 438 interventions by officers during the fair. Five investigations are ongoing, and nine warnings were issued. Six equines, a dog, a puppy, a kitten, a cross-bred canary, a wild-caught goldfinch and a wild rabbit are in charity care.

    Staff from nine welfare charities attend the fair each year.

    “The experienced and committed team of charity and private practice vets, logistics experts, enforcement and education officers have been supporting the protection and wellbeing of horses at the fair for over 20 years,” an RSPCA spokesman said. “They provide a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it and run the Best at Appleby Awards.”

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