The cruelty towards hunt horses often goes unmentioned.
Any horse can get hurt, but the unpredictable demands of the hunting field increase the risk significantly.
The majority of injuries out hunting are down to reckless rider error, lack of judgement and consideration for the horses well being.
Injuries the hunt horse might encounter out hunting
1. Over-reach injuries
A common injury on any hunting field, caused either by the horse clipping its own front heels with its hind legs, or a horse behind getting too close and striking the hind legs of the one in front.
Galloping fast in deep ground increases the risk. A really bad over-reach can strike a tendon above the fetlock.”
2. Bruised soles
Bruised soles injuries in hunting horses are mainly associated with fast riding on stony tracks or hard roads.
Hunts often gallop on roads.
3. Flint cuts
Seen in areas such as the Chiltern Hills or by hunts such as the Kimblewick, flint is a type of rock that is so sharp, it was once used to make arrow heads in the Stone Age. The tendon sheath, at the back of the fetlock, cuts on the sole of the hoof, underside of belly, knees and stifle are prone areas.
4. Barbwire wounds
Jumping barbwire fences could result in Laceration wounds tearing of blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Hunt horses are often tripped over by riders putting their horses at wire fences which horses have difficulty seeing, tread on it or get wrapped up in barbwire.
Barbwire should not be jumped.
Most likely to be seen in traditional stone-wall country such as Yorkshire, Cornwall, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire, dragging a knee or a fetlock over these sharp stones can puncture into the joint. Stone walls also contain fallen stones on both the take off and landing side thus increasing the risk of injury to the horse. Bruising off solid walls/fences are also common.
6. Hedge thorns
Hunts going over big hedges see a lot of thorns embedded into joints or tendon sheaths. Most of the time the thorn comes out, but you can’t count on that.” and if left unattended can cause injury and infections.
A lot of hedges contain barbwire or sheep fencing which is a dangerous hazard.
7. Suspensory ligaments & tendons
Usually caused by riding over deep uneven terrain ie ploughed fields, through bogs or poor take off and landing conditions, bad rider judgement.
Injuries to ligaments and tendons are a common hunting injury that take a great deal of time to repair. Rider awareness, safety and consideration for the horse must take priority over fun. — for example : ● don’t try to gallop over deep uneven ground, ● don’t jump out off or into poached heavy ground, ● don’t jump obstacles with steep dangerous approach, ● don’t ride on wet boggy ground, ● don’t jump huge ditches with poor safety.
Often unavoidable when horses get close on the hunting field, but as a rider it is your job to look out for potential kickers (if they are prone to it they should have a red ribbon in their tail) and do not get too close behind another horse, especially when queuing for a jump or queuing for gates.
Green ribbons in tail mean an inexperience young horse.
9. Flesh wounds
There are many circumstances which could cause flesh wounds on horses out in the hunting field.
Approaching an open gate too fast can easily result in catching a stifle, hip or flank on a latch. Partially open gates or gates that are swinging back are very dangerous.
Getting caught in gates is completely rider error. If you’re approaching a gate at a flat out gallop, always pull up, ride through the gate at a walk and check the person behind you before moving on.
Many fences on the hunting field have hidden hazards ie, barbwire in hedges, sheep wire, protruding broken post & rail, metals bars, sharp branches, sharp thorns etc.
Roads are also potentially lethal for causing slips resulting in injuries. Do not gallop or canter on roads.
Non of these fences are routinely checked for health & safety hazards prior to hunting day.
10. Putting a foot down a hole
A foot down a hole can result in very nasty injuries for both horse and rider. Depending on what speed you’re going (faster the speed the greater the risk) catching a limb in a hole can result in a sprained joint, pulled ligament or tendon or worse case scenario, a broken leg.
11. Injuries to the jaw, gums, teeth and lips
Most horses become excited when out hunting because its their natural instinct to run with the herd which can often be misinterpreted by the naive rider as “my horse loves it”.
The rider constant ragging and pulling on the bit can lead to injuries in the horses mouth. The prolong effect of this over a days hunting can lead to serious damage.
Horses are normally controlled by the reins both when riding or leading on ground but bad rough riding causes a number of injuries to the mouth.
This is extremely cruel bad riding & horsemanship and totally unnecessary.
12. Injuries to the horses back
Prolonged exposure to riders bouncing around on the horses back especially if they are heavy riders (who need to loose a few stone to lighten the weight off the horses back) can cause painful injury to the horses back muscles and spine.
Horses are also often thrown at jumps incorrectly at high speed which results in the horse having to twist it’s back to get over fence or falls.
13. Concussion injuries
Usually caused by galloping/cantering on hard surfaces ie roads or jumping over fences to land on hard surfaces resulting in concussion and bone stress injuries to the legs ie splints. Jumping onto hard slippery roads is just irresponsible and incredibility dangerous.
Sadly this abuse to the horses legs seems to be an everyday part of hunting.
14. Chills, colic and lameness
Chills, colic and lameness after a horse has been hunting are common. If you leave the horse until the following morning and something has gone wrong, you’re then on borrowed time. You can save thousands of pounds in vets bills, and potentially your horse’s life if you just use common sense.
Most hunt horses become hot and sweaty then have to stand around in the cold and wet for long periods, which results in the horses catching chills. Bad management, care and riding are mainly to blame.
15. Whip & Spur injuries
Rider inflicted. Caused by riders forcing their horses (by excessive use of the whip & spurs) to jump fences the horse hasn’t got the confidence, ability or understanding to jump.
Any such excessive use would result in a ban or prosecution in any other equestrian discipline but for hunting this is not monitored or regulated.
16. Broken legs, neck.
These circumstances are common among hunting horses. Riders asking horse to jump fences and ditches and ignoring the fact of what hidden dangers are contained within the hedge i.e barbwire, big wide ditch or dangerous landing/take off conditions.
These injuries usually occur because of over keen inconsiderate reckless riders … or … when hunts are not following a set trail and the route hasn’t been checked for safety.
17. Heart attacks and death.
A ruptured aorta is caused by the weakening of a portion of the aorta wall. Also called an aortic aneurysm, it’s one of the more common aneurysms in horses under stress. When heart rate and blood pressure increase, such as during hard hunting, the weak area can balloon and burst. Due to the demands of the hunting field the risk of a horse heart attack increases significantly. Some riders can push horses to their limits and forcing them to continue. No one monitors this.
18. Ditches & Banks
Even though ditches & banks are not an injury (Obviously), ive included them into this listing because of the number of injuries they do cause i.e. mainly all of the listed above.
Riding a horse into a bog or wet boggy ground shows total irresponsibility and the poorest horsemanship. The stress and strain both physical and mentally the horse will suffer is horrific. Tendons are easily pulled and horse falls are common in these sort of conditions.
20. Abuse & assault
Its not only the horses that can be abused, but any protesters who try to film the hunts illegal activity. Hunt riders using their whips to assault people and their horses as a weapon to ram into and trample members of the public.
The forgotten horse riding welfare laws
The cruelty towards hunt horses often goes unmentioned. Hunt riders often attempt to jump or go places most horse riders with normal common sense and concerns about their horses welfare would never attempt.
The majority of injuries out hunting are down to reckless rider error, lack of judgement and consideration for the horses well being. Most injuries, pain and suffering could easily be avoided if horse riding welfare laws were introduced and hunts were regulated & monitored.
To spend a day out hunting, hunt horses have to be extremely fit and sound.
Most hunt horses if asked to pass a fitness & soundness test prior to hunting wouldn’t pass the test.
Horse welfare laws generally cover the care of the horse at home but not the care of the horse while being ridden, which often falls under rules for each equestrian discipline ie Dressage, Showjumping, Eventing.
In the eyes of equestrian sport, trail hunting is not classed as a sport (and rightly so) as its not a competition. Riders do not compete against each other.
Therefore Trail Hunting doesn’t have a rule book regarding the treatment of horses while being ridden. Hunters don’t have rules regarding what they can or cant subject their horses to.
This is a grey area which needs a “Horse Riding Act Law”.
If British Showjumping riders or British Eventing Riders where asked to complete a course of fences over wet boggy conditions, jumping barbwire, broken post & rail fences or big open water ditches where they hadn’t been checked for safety , there would be uproar with most riders saying “i think more about my horse to risk that”.
But hypocritically you often see some of these riders hunting the next weekend doing exactly what they were previously in uproar about.
- Trail hunting has no risk assessment checks carried out of the field, ground conditions of route. Therefore every time a rider trail hunts they risk putting their horses through injury.
- Trail hunting has no rules regarding the safety checks of fences.
- Trail hunting has no rules regarding the welfare of the horse.
- Trail hunting has no rules regarding the standard of riding.
- Trail hunting has no rules regarding the route taken.
- Trail hunting is not monitored or regulated in any way.
Can you imagine the horror if a British Show Jumping or BE event riders turned up to a competition and read this course plan :
fence 1. Barb wire fence.
fence 2. Gallop through a bog and jump a hedge onto road.
fence 3. Broken post & rail with unknown protruding sharp objects.
fence 4. Over huge hedge with big drop into a boggy ploughed field.
fence 5. Jump the big stone wall that’s half fallen down with rocks on landing.
fence 6. Jump into water with no knowledge of how deep it is, bottom conditions or safe exit route.
fence 7. Gallop up the road to a rusty old broken gate followed by a trot through the local residential housing estate.
Finishing line at Kimblewick farm to spread TB.
Fox (Trail) hunting needs banning for many cruelty reasons … or … at the very least properly regulated to ensure safety and non cruelty to all the animals associated with hunting.
But there’s one big problem, hunts have had 14 yrs to obey the law and have proven time and time again they are incapable of doing so. Therefore only a total ban would be acceptable.
No rider who really cares about their horse would put their horse through such a reckless risk but hunters do.
Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys
The code of practice clearly states :
Horse is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
Breach of a provision of the Code is not an offence in itself, but if proceedings are brought against you for a welfare offence the Court will look at whether or not you have complied with the Code in deciding whether you have committed an offence. You should not cause any unnecessary suffering to your animal; this could constitute a serious offence under the Act.
Hunt riders will claim any injury to the horse wasn’t intentional but an accident. “ummm where have we heard that one before”
Im sure every drunk driver doesn’t intentionally mean to injure or kill someone but by drink driving and putting themselves into that reckless position cant rely on the word “unintentional” as a defense, so why are hunters allowed too.
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