park strife | 

Sulky-racers filmed speeding through Dublin's Phoenix Park in shocking scenes

'The Park Ranger Service and An Garda Síochána liaise with the individuals and groups.. when they encounter them in the Park'

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has said so-called “sulky-racing” is not allowed in the Phoenix Park after footage emerged of several horse and carts being driven through the popular Dublin amenity.

The OPW was responding to a video seen by that shows more than a dozen sulky racers driving through the park on a recent Sunday afternoon, close to families out enjoying the spring sunshine.

The video of the sulkies racing past was supplied by a member of the public who said it was shocking to see the spectacle in the middle of the day. They added that Park Rangers were later seen following the sulkies.

In a statement to the Sunday World, a spokesperson for the OPW said the Phoenix Park Management Team was “aware of recent incidents involving sulky racing”.

“Racing of horse and carts is not permitted within the Phoenix Park,” the spokesperson said.

“Furthermore, horse and carts are not permitted to travel across the grasslands of the Park and must keep to the roads.

“The Park Ranger Service and An Garda Síochána liaise with the individuals and groups and advise them of same when they encounter them in the Park."

There have been numerous incidents involving sulky racers that have been highlighted by in recent months.

However, while they are usually held on busy motorways it is more unusual to see the activity taking place in a public park.

After one incident that we reported on in January, a leading animal welfare charity warned of the dangers posed to younger horses from the activity.

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

They were responding to a video that had emerged showing one such sulky race that appears to have taken place on the M3 motorway earlier that month.

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.

At one point a man 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 its 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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