'Big money' | 

Animal welfare charity slams 'cruel' sulky racing as motorway video emerges

"The horses don't enjoy this...But sadly, there's big money to be made and if there's big money to be made, it will continue"

A still from the video showing the sulky race

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A leading animal welfare charity has warned of the dangers posed to younger horses from so-called sulky racing.

The My Lovely Horse rescue operation has seen a number of foals coming in after being ridden in the harsh races on hard road surfaces.

It comes as a new video has emerged showing one such sulky race that appears to have taken place on the M3 motorway last Sunday.

In the clip, two sulkies travel along a slip road leading to the motorway before the race begins.

They canter along behind two vehicles that have their hazard lights flashing before they pick up speed.

On the recording various voices can be heard gearing the riders up for the upcoming race.

One then shouts out, "lads, will you move on in the jeep", to one of the vehicles ahead as the sulkies approach.

The two sulkies then join the motorway and as they do so, a voice shouts out, "stay together lads".

The cars with the flashing lights then stop on both lanes of the motorway itself where a horse box appears to be parked in the far-right lane.

The sulkies cross the median line onto the motorway and race away in the left lane.

One chases the other in the middle of the road as they pass a white van with its hazard lights on, driving along the hard shoulder.

A man laughs in the background as the horses that have been galloping for more than two minutes are forced to quicken their pace.

As they pass under a bridge, one sulky passes the other in the left-hand lane.

"Yeah, there loads left,” a man says in the background.

Coming up to the four-minute mark and there's no let-up in the pace.

"Hold her Reese," a man's voice shouts out, as the sulkies pass over a direction sign on the road for Dublin.

“You're cruising,” the man shouts again.

The excitement in the men's voices following the race can be heard as the sulkies continue along the motorway, picking up speed all the time.

At 5.22 the man in the sulky behind the first one raises what appears to be a whip and starts hitting the horse.

The first one follows suit and also begins to hit the horse with an implement. The first man then waves his whip in victory as he passes the sulky in the right-hand lane before the video ends at 5.47.

A member of My Lovely Horse has said they have noticed younger horses being rescued, which are damaged and wrecked from such activity.

“They can’t deal with it,” a spokesperson said.

“Their legs are still growing so they're in terrible pain and plus they've shoes on, sometimes bad fitting shoes.

“The thing is, there's big money in these races so the big guys are doing it and then the little guys kind of want to come in and do it too.

“I think the biggest issue is that they're not thinking about the horse at all. If you treat that horse well it will continue to make money and will last longer.

“So, the big guys look after them although they still train them very young and their life expectancy isn’t very long because they’re in such pain, whereas the younger kids are doing it with what are effectively babies.

“They’re literally putting shoes on babies and it's cruel. They don’t realise there are certain types of shoes to be used on the road and if a horse is pounding along with the wrong ones on it's wrecking its legs.

“As we’ve said a million times before, would you give a one-year-old a pair of heels and a load of shopping to carry up the road?

“The horses don't enjoy this," she added. "But sadly, there's big money to be made and if there's big money to be made, it will continue.

"The only thing that can happen is that the law needs to come down on this activity big time to ensure that it is regulated and can only be carried out in in certain places, like proper tracks that have the right surface."

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