Overworking of horses was a “significant” animal welfare issue at this year’s Appleby Horse Fair according to the RSPCA. The charity is appealing for information after a horse was “worked to death” on Wednesday afternoon (5 June), the day before the Fair officially began.

The stallion – a three-year-old 14hh skewbald trotter – collapsed at Jubilee Bridge. CCTV images of the man wanted in connection with the incident have been released (see below) and anyone with any information is urged to contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 or police on 101.

“There are a lot of wonderful people and animals at the Fair, who it’s really enjoyable to meet and get to know,” said RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy. “You only need look at the Appleby Horse Project’s Best at Appleby Awards, which celebrate horse health, happiness and horsemanship.

The man wanted in connection with the incident

“Unfortunately, there is also an element of people who think it’s okay to drive horses to the point of exhaustion, and disappointingly we’ve seen the most serious results of that this week.

“Everyone knows about the horse who died at Jubilee Bridge on Wednesday, but we had a Shetland pony who died in the residential section at the back of the Trade Field on Saturday too, which showed all the signs of exhaustion.

“We believe a lot of overworking was happening at night, though it was not being reported, and we had to deal with the consequences the day after. In the case of the Shetland, we were called to the stallion early in the morning, and suspect he was overworked in the evening.

The man wanted in connection with the incident

“A lot of our warnings and interactions were about exhaustion and if the weather had been a little bit hotter we may have been talking about more than these two deaths.”

The RSPCA recorded 438 interventions by their officers during the event; five investigations are ongoing, and nine warnings were issued connected with the Fair. Six equines, one dog, one puppy, one kitten, one canary cross bird, one wild caught goldfinch and one wild rabbit are in charity’s care.

Staff from eight other animal welfare charities attend the Fair each year, alongside the RSPCA. The team of charity and private practice vets, logistics experts, enforcement and education officers have been supporting the protection and wellbeing of horses at the Fair for over 20 years. They provide a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it and run the Best at Appleby Awards.

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