CAMBS: Professional dressage rider jailed for neglecting young competition horses

A Grand Prix level dressage rider was sentenced at court recently after he was found guilty last month of causing suffering to and neglecting five young horses who were in his care.

Sam Duckworth (DOB 06/07/1980) of Newmarket Road, Cambridgeshire – appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 6th December.

Duckworth was given an immediate 18 week custodial sentence after he was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to five young horses that were in his care.

The professional dressage rider was also given a lifetime ban from keeping all animals with no appeal for five years. He was also ordered to pay £68,860 in costs.

An 11 day trial concluded on Wednesday 9th November, where the court found Mr Duckworth guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to five young horses that were in his care – two bay fillies, a chestnut colt, a chestnut filly, and a bay colt – by failing to investigate and address the cause of the animals poor bodily condition and weight loss.

He was also found guilty of failing to take steps to meet the needs of the same five horses, after failing to provide an adequate parasitic control plan, required farriery, a suitable diet and failing to seek veterinary attention in respect of the animals’ poor condition.

After Duckworth was found guilty last week, RSPCA inspector and equine officer Suzi Smith said: “As an experienced horsewoman, it is very difficult for me to see any horses in such poor condition, especially for these youngsters who have been given such a poor start in life, when they should have been receiving professional care”.

“It’s very upsetting when owners and those caring for animals, don’t take the necessary steps to  meet the needs of the animals in their care, and suffering occurs as a result.  It’s even more frustrating when the person responsible has been provided with all the necessary advice from a veterinary surgeon and that advice is not followed”.

 In their witness statement, the veterinary surgeon who examined the horses summarised his findings by stating: ‘The body condition score of the five animals was unacceptably low and the animals were caused suffering. In my opinion, the cause of the poor body condition score was due to a combination of a heavy worm burden and malnutrition / starvation.’

 They also noted in their witness statement that ‘the poor body condition score had been brought to the owner’s attention in October 2020 and he allegedly followed veterinary advice, which included advice on worming and feeding.  If the advice had been followed, then a definite improvement in the body condition score would have been expected over this two month period.  Furthermore, if there was no improvement then further veterinary advice should have been sought, which did not appear to happen. On the basis of these timings, I conclude that on 12 January 2021 these animals have been caused suffering for at least six weeks.’