Rider's warning after padlock cut and horses let out of field onto busy New Forest road
“IT could have been a catastrophe” – those were the words of a dressage rider whose horses were left wandering in a main road after being deliberately released from her New Forest field.
Ellie McCarthy (24) was shocked when she heard her five mares – including one which is heavily pregnant – were in the usually busy Pitmore Lane in Sway early on Sunday morning.
She told the A&T: “All my horses are almost double the size of a New Forest pony. The heavily pregnant one weighs about 750-800 kilos. If a car had hit them, that could have killed someone.”
A neighbour raised the alarm to Ellie’s father Spencer who alerted her. She told the A&T: “I went straight down there with my groom.
“At the time I didn’t realise someone had already got them off the road and we didn’t know how many people we would need if the horses were still there – it’s a very busy road.
“The gate had been left wide open. I can’t even push it open all the way myself as it’s dropped really low, so someone would have had to forcibly lift it and pull it all the way.”
The padlock which secures the gate was found in two pieces on the ground, apparently cut with bolt croppers.
Baffled as to why someone would do such a thing, Ellie said she heard a field in the Cadnam area was targeted in the same way the following day.
“What reason would you have to do that to innocent animals just minding their own business?” she continued.
“Because it was early on Sunday morning, I think we were very lucky that it was quiet.
“The horses also went towards the cattle grid at the end of Pitmore Lane, towards the Forest. If they had gone the other way, towards Lymington, it could have been a very different story. It could have been a catastrophe.”
Posting about the incident on Facebook, she urged other equestrians in the Sway and Lymington areas to be vigilant and careful with their horses and equipment.
Ellie has competed in horse events all over Europe, including the under-25 European Championships in Hungary last summer, and hopes to take part in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Police are investigating Sunday’s incident, which took place between 5am and 7am. Those with information should contact Hampshire officers on 101, quoting crime reference number 44210099663, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.