Welfare turns spotlight on sales

  • The Ada Cole Rescue centre is planning to form closer links with auctioneers to prevent horses and ponies suffering abuse due to their new owners’ ignorance.

    Ada Cole’s Martin Burton says: “Anyone can purchase a horse at auction, regardless of whether they have theexpertise to look after it, and when they run into problems it is the equine welfare charities who have to pick up the pieces.”

    Martin cites the example of Honey (pictured), a Shetland mare bought at auction by an East London family with no experience of keeping horses, and kept in a garage. Ada Cole Rescue Stables, based near Harlow, was called in when the family found that they were unable to look after her.

    Spike is an even sadder case – he was kept in a field full of old machinery, and was covered in festering injuries to his neck and limbs when he was found.

    Equine charities and market inspectors do their best to keep an eye open at auctions, but other than checking that horses are collected from the sale in an appropriate vehicle (Honey was apparently transported in an Escort van), they can do little after the actual sale.

    “We would like to improve lines of communication with auctioneers to see if they can help us prevent cruelty.”

    “There is no requirement currently for a sales description to cover a horse’s suitability for a novice owner or whether it lives in or out, but this would be a good start,” says Martin, who would also be keen to see improved trial facilities so thatpotential owners can assess whether they can handle the horse.

    Andrew Elliott of auctioneer Brightwells, which runs a monthly horse and pony sale in Leominster, Hereford, as well as more specialist auctions, says: “We would be happy to talk to welfare charities about avoiding abuse of horses bought at auctions, but we already control our sales tightly. We have a vet on site, plus independent welfare officers, and we insist that any vices are declared – all sales are fully warranted.

    “We are also very particular about descriptions of horses. For example, any animal under 15hh entered in our sales must be suitable for handling by a child. We would refuse to accept a bid from someone who appears to be incapable of paying for the horse, although this is obviously no indicator of their ability to look after it.”

    For information about the work of the Ada Cole Rescue Centre, visit www.adacole.co.uk

    Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (20 March), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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