Feature Tuesdays: Horses™ the Popular ‘Toy’

By Ellis Hawthorne

LITTLE Camilla junior was having her 17th strop of the day. She throws down her riding crop and produces an unholy screech. Her foot stamping and tantrums were becoming frustrating and a public embarrassment.

“This has gone on too far” her weary mother thinks.

“We’ve created a spoiled brat that needs to be taught a lesson. We’re starting with getting rid of that pony.”

So you thought you’ve bitten the bullet and done the right thing maybe this will earn you a bit of respect…but you can’t just return horses to a shop with a valid recipt.

Penny is a little white pony who was born and bred in Ireland as most ponies her size and shape are. When they reach the age of four or five horse dealers and trainers pick a selection of cheap ponies to be shipped over to the mainland to get them ready to be riding ponies for children. Penny got the ferry over to Scotland and started her training at a dealer’s yard.

It was when it became time for the dealer to sell her things became complicated. Penny wasn’t the most attractive of horses- though I don’t see any horse as ugly and would fall in love with a three-legged donkey. She was a bit stumpy, had a roman nose and no one really knew what breed she was or why she looked the way she did. Penny didn’t catch anyone’s eye.

When no one thought Penny was cute enough for their child she ended up on the back of a lorry and heading swiftly to a meat auction.

This is a common fate for horses and it boils down to irresponsible breeding and selling with no care for whose hands they will fall into next. Some of the biggest culprits are the horse racing industry, 12,000 foals are born to race in the UK and Ireland but only half of them actually make the grade for the track.

For the lucky ponies deemed cute enough they will eventually be out grown. Kids will want to move on to something bigger, faster and that can jump higher than the last one. If that doesn’t happen there’s a good chance parents will have to get rid of these childhood friends because their kids have hit the age where they’re too busy chatting to that cute boy in their English class than getting up to muck out stables.

Many families who sell their horse have no idea that there’s a chance they could end up heading to slaughter rather than the lovely family they imagined would be looking after it.

According to the Humane Society International unprocessed horse meat can fetch up to €31.11 in places like France, Belgium and the Netherlands where 67% of the population find no problem with eating it. It also crops up in these countries in hidden processed forms particularly in “Party Snack Packs.”

That day Penny sold for exactly £20. But remarkably, not to someone who wanted to turn her into a pack of mini cocktail sausages. Penny was bought by a horse-mad woman who still has her to this day. Not a seasoned horse saviour or a protester just someone who was in the right place at the right time to save her life.

When I was nine I rode Penny three days a week, we went to local shows and won almost every class we entered. I still have all my rosettes and trophies and she was the main reason I wanted to become a show-jumper. Sure she looked a bit rough round the edges but her talents were boundless and her personality was sweet and gentle.

Kimberley Winning is a horse-owner and animal rights activist, she said:

“The pain and suffering caused to equines due to people purchasing irresponsibly is unimaginable. Often they are bought before parents fully consider the financial cost and time involved in looking after these animals to an acceptable standard.

All too often this sees horses, ponies or donkeys suffering from cruelty and neglect, passed from home to home and often finally leading them to a slaughter house after a long life of misery. You need to take responsibility if you want to reap the benefits by making sure you find them a sensible new home.”

Now if Penny hadn’t had been so lucky her story may have gone a bit like this: she would have been is bought by the “meat-man” (which is what we horsey folk hauntingly call them). In the unlikely scenario she would have been slaughtered in Britain and possibly enduring pain and cruelty some animals faced in some British abattoirs last year- beaten around with an iron rod and crammed into slaughter cages in a group of two or three where she can witness the horse in front of her be shot in the head in full view.

Alternatively she would get packed in to a cattle lorry which will be too short for her to be comfortable and go on a drive in to Europe. The journey can take up to eight hours all eight of which will be without food, water or breaks. Once they get there they can expect a similar, if not worse, treatment from the European abattoirs.

So next time you hear the “Daddy I want a pony” war cry think long and hard about it. Horses aren’t disposable toys.

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