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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Equine Obesity: A Criminal Offense for Two Pony Owners in England

by Fran Jurga | 14 October 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Pony stallion Dale, before (top) and after (lower) his rehabilitation by World Horse Welfare.

A married couple in Lancashire, England have been banned from keeping horses for five years in one of the first court cases in Britain since a new animal welfare law has been enacted. The two were found guilty of causing suffering by not addressing their ponies' obesity and hoofcare issues.

Keith and Lynn Hall pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a 21 year old mare called April and failing to meet the needs of a 12 year old stallion called Dale. They were also given costs of £500 each and a three month curfew was imposed, enforcing them to be resident at their home between the hours of 10pm and 6am. They indicated their immediate intention to appeal their five year ban.

When World Horse Welfare and RSPCA officials visited the couple’s rented field in November 2008, they found that April’s feet had not been trimmed for a very long time and she was lame and in terrible pain. Her companion Dale had been allowed to become grossly overweight.

Both ponies were seized and taken to a World Horse Welfare farm where they immediately received the care they needed. Dale was put on a strict diet and exercise program and has recovered well but sadly April did not respond to treatment and the difficult decision was made to put her to sleep and end her suffering.

World Horse Welfare Field Officer Chris Williamson says: “This is one of the first cases under the new Animal Welfare Act involving an obese horse and I am pleased that the serious welfare implications of allowing a horse to get into this condition were taken into account in the sentence.”

Please visit for more information. World Horse Welfare provided background and photos for this blog post.

Blogger's comment: Is it possible that the owners were trying to make the ponies look like Thelwell's cartoon characters? Are there people who believe that ponies are supposed to be fat, cresty-necked and lame?

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think WORLD horse welfare is the route to go...there are better, simpler solutions. This really bothers me. Sorry if I offend anyone, but this is major BS.

Aine said...

Apparently the better, simpler solutions didn't work. The mare's feet hadn't just missed a trim or two (she did have to be put down) and a pony doesn't gain that much weight overnight. Every animal welfare organization I know of first tries to work with and educate the owner to remedy the situation. If that is not productive, then legal action is taken. An animal being in pain is not BS.

Equine09 said...

Since this is a hoof care blog, I would have been more interested in seeing April's feet. One would have to question why Dale's feet were obviously trimmed and not April's feet. Obviously we do not know the full story.

Since they have a stallion, perhaps the mare had been bred and foundered after foaling. Perhaps as a 21 yearold, she may also have suffered from Cushings Syndrome. Perhaps the mare had foundered prior to their acquisition of April and suffered chronic laminitis as is the case with many older ponies. And, perhaps the FARRIER WAS UNABLE TO PICK UP APRIL'S HOOFS TO TRIM THEM BECAUSE OF LAMINITIS PAIN --A not uncommon situation! There is no mention of her being obese so it possible they were restricting her grass intake to make her more comfortable and may have believed it was too painful or impossible to hold her feet up for trimning.

In any event, the World Welfare league is WAY OUT OF LINE! A more welcome approach would have been education about the obseity and to bring out a veterinarian and farrier so April's feet could be blocked and she could be trimmed without suffering pain.

Going after owners in these situations does absolutely nothing for the welfare of horses/ponies worldwide and will eventually result in some animals being starved by novice owners in order to avoid potential prosecution. Education is key. Positive intervention is another key. COMPASSION IS KEY. Many of these owners love their horses and do not have the education,money or access to help. It is no excuse for negligence but care not harassment is what is needed. If the situation had been handled as suggested above, the story could have had a positive outcome.

Grandstanding, headline grabbing articles like these are what cause antagonism between horse owners and 'authorities.' The World Welfare league can be assured that I will NOT be donating funds to this or any organization that behaves in a similar matter. World wide there are tens of thousands of horses being starved and mistreated in numerous countries. Those are the horses the World should be trying to rescue/help. Local people need education from compassionate, educated vets, horsemen and farriers to make it work. Otherwise the horses will suffer more when owners do not even attempt to become educated because of fear of their horses being taken away and prosecution.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how lame poor fat Dale was after his forced exercise. His picture didn't look like he had much capacity for exercise other than walking to the next clump of grass. I'm certain Dale thought the ' grossly less than gradual' treatment was cruel and humane.

I imagine the World Horse Welfare group would have pleaded innocent if Dale dropped dead from a heart attack. No doubt they would have prosecuted the owners for abuse if they treated the pony the same way.