Ex-teacher ‘chastised’ horse by smacking it during Cottesmore Hunt

Sarah Moulds arriving at Lincoln Crown Court. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A former primary school teacher caused a horse to suffer by "landing several blows" to its face after it misbehaved, a court has been told.

Sarah Moulds is being prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty against the grey pony she owned, named Bruce Almighty, in Lincolnshire in November 2021.

She lost her job after footage emerged of her kicking and repeatedly slapping the animal when it ran into the road.

The 39-year-old denies two offences on the basis that her actions were proportionate.

Opening the trial at Lincoln Crown Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Hazel Stevens said: “The video shows a grey pony called Bruce Almighty moving from the rear of the trailer to the front of the trailer.

“The female is seen grabbing the lead rope, kicking the horse and is seen landing blows to the horse’s face several times.

“She said she had left two ponies with two children on the grass and that the pony had run into the road with children holding the rope.

“She shouted at the child to let go of the rope and Bruce went into the road.

“She caught him, she said, and she immediately chastised him.

“As Bruce was a child’s pony, she said it was appropriate chastising for his bad behaviour.”

While Bruce did not suffer any external injuries, Mould’s punishment was “unnecessary and counter-productive” and “over the top”, Ms Stevens said.

A video of the act was posted to social media by Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs as Moulds was participating in the Cottesmore Hunt, one of Britain’s oldest foxhound packs, at about 2pm on November 6 2021.

The footage, played several times to a jury of 11 men and one woman, showed Bruce moving from behind a horse box into the road near The Drift, Gunby.

Moulds then took hold of his lead rope and kicked him in the chest before striking Bruce at least four times across the face and returning him to the horse box.

When interviewed by RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben on November 25 2021 – a transcript of which was read in court – Moulds said: “To me, it was all one telling off.

“I feel it was necessary in that situation.

“If I had not chastised him and he had continued to behave in this manner, it would not have been appropriate for him to be handled by children.

“I disagree that it was unnecessary and I also disagree that he suffered.”

Giving evidence, Dr Suzanne Green, an equine veterinary surgeon who analysed the footage frame-by-frame in court, said Bruce “was desperately trying to get away” from Moulds’ blows and would have been left bruised.

She said: “The overall conclusion I have reached was that Bruce was caused unnecessary suffering by the actions of Sarah Moulds in that video.

“The actions she gave to Bruce were not proportionate, not appropriate and not in response to anything.

“The horse has gone to where the child is stood. It is a happy horse and it stops to allow the girl to catch the horse by the lead rope.

“It is not being evasive. It is not trying to run away.

“By physically kicking a horse that hard, it is obviously inciting fear into that horse as it is an unpleasant experience.

“You have only kicked a horse like that to deliver pain because it will hurt it.”

After the incident, Cottesmore Hunt organisers said they “strongly disapprove” of the video of “one of our followers mistreating a pony”, while the RSPCA said the incident was “really upsetting”.

Moulds was sacked by the Mowbray Education Trust, based in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, in December 2021 and charged in January 2022 with two offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The defendant, of Somerby, Melton Mowbray, denies causing an animal unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and not taking reasonable steps to protect the animal from pain, suffering, injury or disease.

The trial continues.

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