Sometimes when something bad happens it can be a force for good so we're really hoping that the recent outcry over Oliver Towend's overuse of the whip during the cross country phase of Badminton Horse Trials 2018 will bring about a change to eventing rules and attitudes toward the use of the whip on horses in general.

This year’s Badminton highlighted the fact that the current rules in eventing don't go far enough to protect the welfare of the horse. So, one suggestion is for British Eventing and the FEI to introduce more stringent rules, suspensions and fines similar to those that were introduced into British horse racing when it came under pressure from the public to protect horses from being beaten to the finishing line. This seems particularly pertinent now in view of the new eventing scoring system which has put more emphasis on fast cross country times.

Obviously new rules would have to be tailor made for eventing but here's a brief intro to British Horseracing Authority rules….

The permitted number of uses of the whip with hands off the reins is 7 time for Flat races and 8 times for Jumps race. Additionally, 'Provided that the manner in which the whip had been used was measured, Stewards may choose to disregard occasions when the whip has been used in the following circumstances:
Flat races
a) To keep a horse in contention or to maintain a challenging position prior to why would be considered the closing stages of a race.
b) To maintain a horse's focus and concentration.
c) To correct a horse that is noticeably hanging.
d) Where there is only light contact with the horse
additionally for Jump Races
e) Following a mistake at an obstacle
f) To correct a horse that is running down an obstacle.

Stewards may be less tolerant should a rider use the whip 8 times or more in a Flat race or 9 times or more in a Jump race:

a) When the horse is young or inexperienced.
b)When a rider continues to use the whip when not being directly challenged for a finishing position.
c) When a rider fails to recognise that his use of the whip is not having the intended effect.

If you listened to Ian Stark's commentary for the BBC's coverage of Badminton you will have heard him justify the use of the whip on quite a few occasions. In fact when Oliver Townend gave his horse Cooley SRS three smart smacks on the rump on their way to the Shogun Hollow, Ian Stark said,  “OK, so he smacked the horse but he is actually getting the horse's attention and concentration. He wasn't beating the horse up, it was actually doing a bit of good, getting the combination thinking together.”

This of course is the view that a lot of equestrians maintain - the whip is actually necessary for horse and rider safety when jumping big obstacles.

However, there are some people who argue we should go even further, much further. One of these is Mark Smith, a very experienced horseman who has evented to international level  and heads up the Bitless not Brainless team chasing team. He also specialises in re-training ex-racehorses and teaching confident, more effective and therefore safer riding cross country. For more of that, read one of our previous posts HERE.

Mark proposes that Badminton Horse Trials 2019 should put itself at the forefront of horse welfare by dropping the whip completely, making eventing the first equestrian sport to do so. Yes, your jaw may have also dropped on reading this, but stay with us because his arguments are very interesting.

"Badminton,' says Mark, 'is our worldwide showcase for the best riders and horses in eventing. For horses and riders to qualify for Badminton they have to be the best in the world and their horses will be used to jumping big and scary obstacles. There won't be much out there that they haven't seen before, well at least something very similar.”

According to Mark, at this elite level, it shouldn't be necessary to use a whip for 'safe' jumping.

"There are only 3 reasons why a horse would refuse a jump at Badminton…"

1. The horse is hurting, in which case it is totally unacceptable to use the whip.
2. The horse is exhausted (many horses won't have encountered a course as long as Badminton, so it's not his fault their fault if they're not fit enough) in which case it is totally unacceptable to use a whip.
3. The rider has screwed up the approach to the fence, so again, it is totally unacceptable to use the whip!"

Mark isn't against competitors carrying a whip at novice level events but insists "Most top trainers agree that the whip has one use only and that is to make the horse go faster. Horses aren't like humans, they haven't the capacity to link crime and punishment. We need to look at things from the horse's point of view and train them so that they volunteer to do the right thing by taking away the wrong thing. We shouldn't be bullying them into it. For instance if a horse stops at a skinny, I put wings at each side, get him confident, then take them away. So, I've taken away the wrong option and let him think he's become a volunteer. I truly believe that people don't want to watch a horse being press-ganged into doing what their rider wants and would rather see that horse enjoying itself.

"As for elite equestrian events, they want to see the best that horse and rider can be and feel sickened when they see a rider asking too much of their horse and beating it. If Badminton banned the whip it would be an opportunity for them to showcase skill and harmony between horse and rider. This could be the best thing that's happened in equestrian sport for a long time."

Is Mark's proposition that Badminton 2019 leads the way and places a total ban on carrying a whip, a step too far? Would you prefer to see a change to eventing rules similar to those in horse racing- or don't they go far enough? Maybe you think a winning rider in breach of the rules should also lose their placing in the results? We'd love your views on this very controversial subject. One thing's for sure, no change is simply not good enough!

If you want to sign Mark's petition then click HERE.

For more info on British Horseracing Authority rules, and penalties click HERE.


Published in Trot On Blogs

A HORSE trekking centre is closing because the animals risk being injured by overweight riders.

Babeny Farm at Poundsgate on Dartmoor, Devon will cease trading as a trekking centre in September after 35 years in business.
Farm owner Dee Dee Wilkinson said the closure was partly due to an increase in larger visitors who were placing an “unfair” burden on the horses.

“The horses are at an age where they need replacing. Getting those good replacements can be difficult,” Mrs Wilkinson said.“We are finding increasingly that people are getting heavier, so we are unable to let them ride as it isn’t fair on the horses.”

Mrs Wilkinson said increasing costs of insurance and restrictions on when families can take holidays also influenced the decision...READ MORE


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The RSPCA is now appealing for the public's help in tracing those believed to be the animal's owners, after they left the injured horse at the scene.

The charity has issued photographs of two men it wants to speak to about the incident which happened in Great Bridge Road, Bilston, West Midlands, on Sunday afternoon.

The horse had been pulling a trap and was part of a procession of other carriages, when the incident happened. Members of the public were left to help the animal, which was "bleeding profusely" from wounds to her front and legs, animal welfare officers said.

"The horse was lying in the road and bleeding where the smashed windscreen had cut into her front and legs. This was a shocking sight and she was clearly suffering." RSPCA inspector Vicki Taylor

The car which the horse collided with was left badly damaged - but the occupants escaped unscathed (RSPCA/PA)

The inspector added that although the incident must have been "a shock", she claimed the men had "abandoned" the horse to its fate by leaving the scene.

The horse, which escaped without broken bones, is now at boarding stables and should make a full recovery, according to vets.

Anyone who recognises the horse, or the men in the picture are being urged to contact the RSPCA by calling 0300 123 8018.

Published in Articles
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 09:58

Do we treat horses like cars, or worse?

You’ve probably read the recent news story about the 13 year old granddaughter who answered an online free ad from a woman saying that unless someone offered a home to her pony it would have to be put to sleep. Of course, what pony loving girl could resist. However her Nan wasn’t quite as happy to find a forlorn colt dumped in her back yard!

As a ponyless girl I would definitely have answered that advert. Not only would I have  saved a pony’s life but also fulfilled my young dream and got it delivered direct to my door for FREE!  But, as my Mum used to say, it’s not getting a horse that’s a problem, it’s finding the money to keep one.

Let’s face it, owning a horse is an expensive business and that’s why their fate is usually determined by money. When, they’re a dream in a new owner’s eye, the promise of a perfect partner and a future of possibilities, then, money is spent. But, when they become unrideable, due to behavioural or physical problems, aren’t up to fulfilling their owner’s ambitions or have just become too old, they often turn into a monetary burden.

The woman who put her pony in an online ad and then dumped him at a house without any apparent care for his welfare has been quite rightly criticised.  But, whilst everyone is raging about her behaviour maybe we should scrutinise our own.

Unfortunately horses often get treated like cars. When they’re troublesome they’re sold to someone else because there’s no room for a ‘vehicle’ that’s not useful. And when selling both cars and horses, honesty very often falls by the wayside. So, do those people who ‘shift’ their problem horse onto someone else, usually with the help of some creative ad writing, really care about their horse’s welfare? They’d like to think so, because what’s the alternative? They can’t afford to keep a horse that they can’t ride.....hopefully it will go to a good home....anyway it’s better than having it put down isn’t it?

What about the person with an elderly horse who just gives it away, and will deliver it too. They feel good about themselves because they’re sending it to a good home.....well, actually they don't’ know the people but they sounded nice and it sounds like a good home.

Of course, most people really do want to do well by their horse and argue that it would be better off with someone else. But, this horse could end up being shifted from pillar to post and be cruelly treated along the way.  This can be blinkered kindness.

And what about the elderly horse? Maybe it’s just better to have him or her put to sleep. What a terrible thing to suggest some of you are probably thinking, but surely if we love our horses we should have the courage to end their lives rather than leave them to a fate that we can’t control. Or is it easier to leave that difficult decision to someone else and kid ourselves that we’re being kind?

So, before we start ranting about what this woman has done, maybe we should ask some awkward questions closer to our own stable yard.


Published in Trot On Blogs

A grandmother was surprised when a skinny and mite-covered horse was delivered at her house after her 13-year old granddaughter ordered in online.

The young colt was abandoned at the back of a house in Smallthorne, Stoke-on-Trent, after the girl ordered the horse from an online advert and gave her grandmother’s address for delivery.

The shocked nan, unsure what to do with the pony, contacted World Horse Welfare and it has since been transported to a private boarding stable.

Now the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare is asking for the public’s help to find those responsible.

RSPCA inspector Charlotte Melvin said:

“You couldn’t make this up! A 13-year-old girl responded to a plea on an online free ads site where a lady said she didn’t want the pony anymore and that he would be put to sleep if no one had him.“She gave her nan’s address and the next thing that happened was a man just came along and dumped the pony there, no words of advice or anything like that - and leaving a very shocked nan.“We don’t know where this poor pony came from but he clearly was not treated well before being abandoned.Pets at Home apologies after wrongly accusing seven-year-old girl of shoplifting“We have come to a dead end in trying to find out further information so we are appealing for anybody who can help us to get in touch.”


Anyone who has information about the dumped horse should call the RSPCA’s appeals line on 0300 123 8018 or World Horse Welfare at 08000 480 180.

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“Cinders” as she is now called was rescued after being abandoned and suffering from severe facial, presumed chemical, burns. She was attended by the RSPCA and a local equine vet before being transported to the hospital for further assessment and treatment. When she arrived at the hospital she was very weak and was unable to open her eyes due to severe burns affecting her eyelids. It is thought that the attack was deliberate and resulted from a chemical being thrown in her face. 

"We believe the horse was deliberately dumped after its injuries had been inflicted," said vet Dave Rendle. "It was dumped at a private yard so we assume whoever dumped it was hoping it would be found and receive treatment. But for whatever reason, they weren’t prepared to organise this treatment themselves.

"She was very weak, stressed, thin and dirty when she arrived at the hospital but has coped extremely well here. We hope she will make a full recovery and find a nice private home where she will be cared for."

An online fundraising page set up by the hospital to raise money for Cinders’ treatment reported that the horse, believed to be around eight months old, was making good progress.

The team at Rainbow Equine Hospital treated her with pain relief and antibiotics, her face was cleaned and the areas of dead skin carefully removed to reduce the risk of infection. She was anaemic due to the ongoing blood loss and a heavy burden of skin of intestinal parasites. A blood transfusion was given to increase levels of blood cells and proteins that are vital for healing. Once the treatment had started, she started to eat and become much brighter stronger.


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Written by Eveline Wijngaard, about the dramatic abuse of domesticated wildlife at Oostvaarders Plassen, The Netherlands:
I was born in this place and I will die in this place.
No doubt about it.
It is only the question of how I will die.
Today. Tomorrow. In a week.
Will it be the bullet or starvation?
I do not know.
But I will die, that's for sure.
I was born nameless on a bare moorland.The trees do not provide protection against the cold wind.
My mother's milk does not fill my stomach. Just like the hay does not fill her stomach. Nor of our brothers and sisters.
There is no green, no life. No joy. No sound of an approaching spring. Because for joy, strength is needed. And we do not have that anymore. I watch all the animals that I encounter, with admiration. But also with a strange feeling. No one jumps, no one makes a noise. They are spiritless, reticent. They are saving everything that remains in their bodies to survive.
Every fiber in their body is near to exhaustion. Hankering for the approaching of spring, but that's so far away.
Far away. And while the powerfull wind from Russia ravages our bodies, I try to fantasize about what spring might be like.
My mother softly whispered it in my ear last night, while I silently layed next to her and heard her belly grunt, howling and screaming. From pain and from despair. But in her softly voice I heard hope.
Spring, sweet child, with your strong hooves. Your soul so pure.
That is the moment we are all waiting for.
Hoping for green. Longing for warmth.
The birds that fill the air with their spring clamour.
Spring is hope. Spring is new life.
But the next morning when I wanted to get up, my long legs were stiff because of the cold, my mother was quiet and hard.
She must be dreaming of spring. Or maybe she is already there.
I'm lying here on the bare moorland. I have never known anything else. And while the wandering animals slowly are passing me by, I know that spring will also be there for me.
They will all be there. The drowned deer with the big, dark eyes.
The choked horse, her slender neck clamped between the bare trees. The shot deer, with her wounds.
Again awakened. A new spring.
I hope it will not be in the same place.

Translated: Meredith Brown

A plea to help the animals in a reserve – situated between Almere and Lelystad in Holland has been highlighted on social media.

Horses are starving in a man made swamp because they were put there by the government in an attempt to create a natural park. The horses were supposed to keep the grass short but a lack if food in winter means so many are starving to death. They are convinced that the bet thing to do us "let nature take its course" . When people were outraged by the government's lack of compassion they employed rangers to shoot the very sick in a survival of the fittest style. Farmers have tried to help the animals but the government have imposed a ban and anyone caught helping will be fined. Please help the animals. We need to spread awareness to force the government to rethink their strategy...

Known as the Oostvaardersplassen, the reserve occupies fifteen thousand almost perfectly flat acres on the shore of the inlet-turned-lake.
Like genuinely wild animals, those in the Oostvaardersplassen are expected to fend for themselves. They are not fed or bred or vaccinated. Also like wild animals, they often die for lack of resources. From a public-relations point of view, this is controversial. READ MORE
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The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is to investigate the deaths of six horses at last week’s Cheltenham Festival, including four on the final day.

The BHA’s chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier expressed sympathy, in a statement issued after the close of the four-day Festival on Friday, for all those who had cared for the horses.

 “Everyone who follows this sport does so because we love these fine animals and it is extremely sad when we lose any horse,” he said.

 “The BHA will be reviewing the circumstances leading to the fatalities at the Cheltenham Festival. We will examine the evidence from the past week over the next few days before deciding how we will pursue the review.”

Sandsend, Some Plan, Dresden and North Hill Harvey all died on Friday, the flagship Gold Cup day.

The latter three died of injuries in the Grand Annual Chase while the Willie Mullins-trained Sandsend broke a leg in the County Hurdle while racing for the finish, with jockey Katie Walsh thrown into the railings.

Mossback was put down on Tuesday following a fall and Report to Base died on the same day.

 “We continue to use research, safety measures, regulation and education to reduce fatality rates to as close to zero as possible,” Stier said.

 “This is what has contributed to the overall fatality rate within British racing reducing by a third in the last 20 years, and the fatality rate in jump racing reducing to below 0.4 percent of runners.”

The BHA said it will also look at the unconnected issue of whether existing penalties for misuse of the whip are an effective deterrent to jockeys.

Richard Johnson, who rode Native River to Gold Cup victory on Friday, was fined 6,550 pounds by stewards after the race and handed a seven-day ban for misuse of the whip.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond
Published in Articles
Thursday, 15 March 2018 09:45

Improving the Welfare of Racehorses

Love or loathe the horse racing industry, you've got to welcome any initiatives that improve the welfare of racehorses. From the start of 2018, any foal born to race must now be registered with Weatherbys General Stud Book within 30 days of its birth in a bid to trace the whereabouts and welfare of foals and provide greater transparency over the welfare provided by breeders and owners throughout a thoroughbred's life . 

To further aid the development of a health and welfare strategy for racehorses the British Horseracing Association (BHA) have sent a survey out to trainers to discover what happens to thoroughbreds once their racing career is over. 

David Sykes, the BHA's director of equine health and welfare, said:

"British racing's duty of care to its racehorses extends beyond the end of their racing careers.
"As part of our work towards an equine welfare strategy which encompasses the post-racing life of a racehorse, we need to get a fuller picture of what happens to horses after they leave the track.
"Asking for trainers' help to do this will allow us to understand the current landscape from those who experience it first hand, and we are looking forward to seeing the results."

Many professionals in the industry, particularly owners and trainers are already committed to making sure that their horses go on to second homes and careers after they have finished racing and the industry invests over £750,000 in the rehoming and retraining of racehorses, including British HorseRacing's official charity, Retraining of Racehorses. Let's hope these new initiatives help to improve the lives of racehorses even more.

Published in Trot On Blogs

It's not clear how the 16 horses died while returning to Melbourne from a polo tournament in Tasmania. Nor is it clear at which point in the return journey to NSW the deaths were reported.

The horses, from the Willo Polo club in New South Wales, travelled to Tasmania to compete in an event at the Barnbougle Polo club on January 20.

The deaths were discovered on January 29 after the truck crossed Bass Strait on the ferry The Spirit of Tasmania, further details about the journey are unknown.

While ASMA and Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment are investigating the incident, it is not known if the horses died on the ferry or after they disembarked.

Owner and former captain of Australia's polo team, Andrew Williams said

“What I know is I saw 18 healthy horses on my truck just before departure in Tasmania, and an hour after leaving the boat in Melbourne I discovered 16 of them were dead and cold.

“I didn’t change anything. Yes, it was a warm night. I have asked for answers, but have received nothing.

“I am a farmer, a polo player and a breeder of ponies. They are the reason I can feed my family. To have that taken away is gut-wrenching. It is with the legal team now and hopefully they will receive the answers I deserve.”

Mr Williams said he had done the trip 11 times previously in the same truck. He has put his career and livelihood on hold after the incident.

The deaths have been described as a tragedy by the RSPCA’s Andrew Byrne.
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