‘Traumatised’ pony collapses after youths tied string around his throat in second attack

  • The owner of a riding school has spoken of her heartbreak and fear after three of her ponies were targeted in their field by youths, who tied string around their heads so tightly that one collapsed.

    On 26 April at around 5pm staff at Eston Equitation Centre, Middlesbrough, saw three teenage boys in the distance in their field, which borders the Eston hills. Two of the boys were riding elderly 13.2h pony Billy, and one was on pony Teena, who is recovering from lameness.

    “We could see the boys smacking Billy with a stick, and when they saw us coming they got off, climbed over fencing on to the hills, and took off on quad bikes,” Laura Storey, the centre’s owner told H&H.

    “They look to be around ages 14-20, and seeing them hitting Billy was awful. When we got to the ponies we found that they had string tied round their faces and through their mouths, like makeshift halters. The string had cut into Billy’s face.”

    A vet attended to Billy and Teena, and police were called.

    Warning: graphic image

    “We hoped that would be the last of it, having caught them in the act, and we increased our field checks. We didn’t see anything else, then on 5 May when we went to check the ponies at 7.30am, we realised one pony, Jingles, wasn’t with the others,” said Laura.

    “We found him choking with string tied around his throat and through his mouth. It was tied like a noose, so it had pulled tighter and tighter round this throat, he couldn’t breathe and he collapsed. It was so tight we couldn’t get a finger in between, but we managed to cut it off. He got up but collapsed again”

    Jingles, an 11.2hh Welsh, suffered cuts to his mouth and has been “traumatised” by the event. He was treated by a vet, and Laura contacted the police again.

    Jingles was left traumatised by the incident. Credit: Eston Equitation.

    “We checked the rest of the ponies and they seemed ok, but we found large sections of the field’s outer fencing had been pulled down. We have outer and inner fencing, and we think they’d have tried to take the ponies if it hadn’t been for the inner fence,” said Laura.

    “Later that day, at 5.30pm, we could see another a group of boys and girls in the field again, and we chased them down but some got away on quads, and some ran on to the A174.”

    Laura shared what has been happening on Facebook in the hope word would spread to help keep the horses and ponies safe.

    “I just don’t understand why this group is doing this. We are taking it in shifts to watch over the ponies at all times, including through the night. We are exhausted but I don’t know what the solution is. It’s been an absolute nightmare for us but we just want to make sure the horses and ponies are ok. It’s such a worry that they will come back,” said Laura.

    “At first I didn’t want to put anything about it online, but I felt if more people are aware then there will be more eyes on the horses and ponies. It’s a large 20-acre field and takes an hour to walk the perimeter, and they all live out together.

    “The trouble is because the field is on a hill, the group could always see us coming from the bottom and could get away. We hope if people are out walking on the Eston hills and see something happening then they can immediately let us know or phone the police.

    A group of Eston Equitation clients have set up a fundraiser to raise money to fix the fencing and buy CCTV for the field. Visit the Eston Equitation JustGiving page.

    “We’ve had lots of support, and people in the local community have been disgusted about what’s happened,” said Laura.

    “It’s just heartbreaking, we are a riding school and our horses and ponies are family. They come to us and are never sold, so we have lots of retired or older ones. They should be safe in their own field. We bought the business in 2016, and have never known anything like this.”

    A Cleveland Police spokesman said officers attended Eston Equitation and provided forensic, crime prevention, and safeguarding advice and the force’s equine officer will highlight the incidents at this month’s regional equine meeting.

    “This is where police forces and partner agencies share information and best practice, as well as discussing problem solving approaches to equine-related crime and anti-social behaviour,” said the spokesman.

    “In the meantime, we would appeal to parents and carers to check what their children are doing while out of the house and to stress to them that police will identify and deal with anyone causing harm or suffering to animals.

    “We would also appeal for anyone with information to contact Cleveland Police on the 101 number quoting ref 076245.”

    Information can also be passed on anonymously via www.crimestoppers-uk.org or on 0800 555 111.

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