Alleged cruelty case involving up to 35 horses an exception, insists HRI chief

A case relating to alleged animal cruelty involving up to 35 thoroughbreds in County Wexford is very much an exception in Ireland, stressed Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh. 

The thoroughbreds, which are understood to be all broodmares apart from a foal, a gelding and a pony teaser, were reportedly rescued from an Enniscorthy farm following a tip-off and are now said to be recovering well in the care of the Irish Horse Welfare Trust.

No licensed trainers or premises are believed to be involved, and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board was not aware of the find, which is being investigated by the Gardai.

Some reports have suggested the two main individuals involved were new to the breeding sector and soon established a reputation for being unreliable.

"Nobody could condone the neglect of horses," Kavanagh said of the find, during which the horses were reportedly discovered in a malnourished state.

He added: "You have to keep it in context. You have 50,000 thoroughbreds and we're talking about 35 here. This is an individual case and it's a case you'd like to know more about before commenting in detail.

"No one wants to see anything with horses being neglected or not looked after."

Greater traceability of thoroughbreds has been targeted by HRI this year with voluntary notification of all foals registered in Ireland in 2019 reaching a level of 75 per cent.

The plan is for better technology to be in place to allow 100 per cent notification in 2020, which will facilitate full traceability of foals born next year throughout their lives.

"Traceability will help," said Kavanagh. "That will help establish where horses are. [But] ultimately the care of a horse is a matter for the person who owns the horse and in whose care it is.

"Often there are human stories behind animal welfare issues which are always going to be there. Traceability will be very important. But does it mean there won't be cases like this – I'm not sure."

An IHRB spokesperson said: "We were surprised to see it. It's not something that was drawn to our attention and it is a Garda matter."