Petition saves life of disabled driving group's horse - for now
An online petition has won a temporary stay of execution for a horse threatened with being put down by its owners - the Kennet Valley Driving Group, which is part of the national Riding for the Disabled organisation.
After an accident Perrine, a chunky 15.1 comtois mare, was deemed too dangerous to ride or drive and it was agreed she would have to be retired. Despite an offer to re-home her, the committee of trustees voted to have her put down - prompting a furious online reaction.
Perrine has been pulling one of the specially adapted carriages for the disabled for the past ten years. Until last year she had never put a foot wrong, but one day she bolted, possibly because of a problem with the equipment.
One explanation is that a car - driving too fast - made her stop suddenly and the carriage ran into her because of an equipment malfunction. A few weeks later having behaved perfectly in several trials, she bolted again and it was unanimously agreed that she should be retired because the safety of the disabled clients is paramount.
Some members were so sad at losing a horse who had been such a loyal servant for so long they found a charity in Norfolk which would put her out to grass and never ride or drive her again.
But the Riding for the Disabled head office, which oversees the carriage driving groups and provides insurance, said she had to be put down as they could be liable for any accident she caused.
After an emotional meeting of local trustees it was agreed by a majority she should be destroyed. One trustee, V. Hemery resigned and an online petition was launched to save her - saying the horse had been a scapegoat for human failure.
Within 24 hours over 1300 people had signed it, prompting a rethink from RDA headquarters. Ed Brasher, the chief executive of the RDA, put out a statement saying that the local trustees were in a very difficult position as the horse was dangerous. He repeated that Perrine was dangerous and that the RDA might be held liable for her in any new home. But he said no action would be taken “to euthanise the horse in the immediate term”.
The trustees, he said, would reconvene to discuss the issue further “taking into account the strong feelings on both sides.”
The Kennet Valley Driving Group operates out of Lockeridge in the winter and takes around 12 disabled people for a drive each week. Until two years ago, they had three traps and horses and without Perrine they will now be down to one. The group depends on a band of volunteers as carriage has to have an able-bodied driver to share the driving, two escorts on foot, and cars to alert on coming traffic.
It is understood that some helpers are threatening to quit if Perrine is put down.
The petition can be found here.