Horse owner fined for mistreating animal

THE owner of a retired thoroughbred racehorse called Humphrey has been fined £635 for “mistreating” the animal.

Joseph Ward admitted mistreating the horse, at Livingston Sheriff Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Joseph Ward admitted mistreating the horse, at Livingston Sheriff Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Joseph Ward, 38, admitted failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of the horse were met when it took part in Currie Riding of the Marches on May 4, 2013.

He admitted allowing Humphrey, a chestnut stallion, to be ridden in the gruelling 12-mile ride while the animal was underweight.

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A vet later diagnosed the horse as suffering from “mild lameness” in three of his legs. The 20-year-old animal also appeared dehydrated and exhausted, had a higher than normal heart rate and had a saddle sore above its withers.

Ward, a former jockey turned chef from Kirknewton, West Lothian, denied causing his horse unnecessary suffering, failing to provide him with a proper diet and vet treatment and permitting him to be ridden.

When the case called for trial at Livingston Sheriff Court yesterday the Crown accepted his not guilty pleas to all of the more serious charges.

Katrine Craig said SSPCA inspectors followed the horse back to the stables after receiving a complaint about its condition during the Currie Riding.

She said the terrain which horses were ridden over during the event was “challenging and demanding” in places.

A vet from the Royal Dick Vet who examined Humphrey concluded that the horse was in poor body condition with a s core of 1.5 out of 5 and should not have taken part on the ride.

The Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals later seized the horse following the vet’s diagnosis.

David McKie, defending, said a number of lay witnesses had been prepared to testify that there had been no problems with Humphrey before or during the ride.

He stressed the horse was thin, not emaciated, adding: “As a retired thoroughbred racehorse he’s accustomed to being lean.

“Mr Ward has been riding horses since he was six and this is his own horse. He’s a very caring, compassionate horse owner and Humphrey was always well-fed, well looked after and much loved.

“He’s prepared to accept that this was an error of judgment which he very much holds his hands up to.”

He said Ward had been deprived of his horse for the past two years as a result of the SSPCA intervention.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Douglas Kinloch said cases involving the mistreatment of animals caused considerable public concern.

However, he told Ward: “I’ve come to the conclusion that your decision to allow the horse to take part in the riding of the marches was an isolated misjudgment on your part rather than something which involves serious mistreatment of this horse or any other horse in your care.”

He made no deprivation or disqualification order, which means Ward will be reunited with his horse in due course.

He allowed payment of the fine by monthly instalments of GBP50.