Cottesmore Hunt rider who kicked and punched horse due to stand trial

Disgraced hunter and ex-primary school teacher Sarah Moulds is due to stand trial on 22 August 2023. She was filmed hitting and kicking a horse, and is charged with two offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

Moulds was a field rider with the Cottesmore Hunt on 6 November 2021. Her horse, Bruce, wandered a few metres into the road, so Moulds kicked him and repeatedly slapped and punched him round the face.

The footage was captured by Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs and posted on social media. Subsequently, the RSPCA brought charges against her. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and for failing to take reasonable steps to protect the horse from pain, suffering or injury.

Moulds was fired from her job after the video went viral and was viewed by millions. The Pony Club, where she volunteered as a team organiser, also dismissed her.


Behaviour like this “considered acceptable” by hunters

After the video went viral in late 2021, the Hunt Saboteurs Association spoke to the Hertfordshire sab who filmed the footage. The sab said:

“The poor, defenceless creature was held by the reins so had no chance of escape. The way the pony reacted by flinching suggests this wasn’t the first time this has happened…

Honestly, I was shocked but, as we witness animal abuse week in, week out I was not surprised. We all know how quick-tempered hunt members can be, however if you can react like that to a pony – kicking, slapping, and punching them in the face in full view on a public road – it suggests it is normal behaviour and even considered acceptable. Of course, it is not acceptable and mistreating an animal like that is a terrible lesson for the youngsters watching on.”

We have already reported on how animal cruelty is second nature to a number of hunters. In February 2023, Mendip Hunt Sabs filmed George Pullen, a master of the Mendip Farmers Hunt, thrashing his hound with a whip. Protect the Wild’s Glen Black previously summarised a number of other instances of animal abuse by hunters, too:

“In December 2021, West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs filmed a rider with the Warwickshire Hunt hitting his horse with a riding crop. And in the same month, Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Saboteurs filmed Tory councillor Bill Borrett also hitting his horse with a crop during a meet of the West Norfolk Foxhounds. In November of that year, North East Hunt Monitors published footage of a man whipping a hound while exercising the pack. The monitor group identified him as Mark Baldwin of the South Durham Hunt.

However, the issue was raised by sab groups long before the Moulds incident. Perthshire Hunt Sabs published video in November 2017, for example, showing then-huntsman of the Fife Foxhounds, Robert Howarth, casually striking a hound with a whip.”

And these are just the instances we know about.

A very public trial

The nationwide uproar that Moulds caused means that the outcome of her trial will likely receive a lot of coverage. It remains to be seen how she will try to justify that she wasn’t causing unnecessary cruelty to Bruce the horse.

The Sentencing Council recently published new guidelines for judges who are sentencing people found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal under the Animal Welfare Act. It also increased the maximum sentence for Mould’s second charge of failure to take steps to prevent Bruce from pain and injury. The new guidelines have increased the maximum penalty from six months to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for both charges.

Moulds will appear in Lincoln Crown Court on 22 August.

Hertfordshire Hunt Saboteurs captured the footage that has led to the prosecution of Moulds. You can donate to the group on PayPal or Ko-fi.

Featured image screenshot from BBC News