Jury retires in trial of ex-teacher accused of animal cruelty for striking horse

The jury in the trial of a woman charged with animal cruelty offences for kicking and slapping a horse has retired to consider its verdict.

Sarah Moulds is charged with two offences after footage emerged of her striking a grey pony she owned in November 2021.

The pony, named Bruce Almighty, was kicked once and slapped four times in response to perceived misbehaviour after running off down a road in Lincolnshire.

Moulds, 39, claimed she made “minimal contact” with the animal, who still lived a “wonderfully idyllic” life with her.

Giving the jury final directions at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday, Recorder Graham Huston said: “The behaviour was caught on film and the film has been played as part of the evidence of the trial.

“The defendant says that if any suffering was caused, this was necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and that her behaviour was that of a reasonably competent and humane person.

“It is for you to decide where the truth lies.

“You must reach a unanimous verdict upon which you are all agreed.”

Prosecutor Hazel Stevens had previously told the court that Bruce “suffered physically and mentally” as a result of Moulds’ “over the top” chastisement.

Summarising the Crown’s case on Thursday, she said: “She decided to treat Bruce like that, she made that decision.

“She kicked him, she said because she had her hands full, but it didn’t end there.

“After kicking him and making that chastisement, she passes the lead rope to someone else and continues.

“What is Bruce learning from that?

“She says the intention was to punish, to shock, therefore the intention was to do something unpleasant to Bruce.

“Fear is suffering, and the prosecution case is Bruce felt fear.”

Moulds striking Bruce
Moulds could be seen to strike Bruce four times in the footage, as well as kick him (RSPCA/PA)

The animal had been taking part in the Cottesmore Hunt, one of Britain’s oldest foxhound packs, at the time of the incident, which was caught on camera by hunt saboteurs and posted to social media.

No external injuries could be found on Bruce following the incident and a vet examination 10 days later found him to be in “very good health”.

Giving her evidence, Moulds said she intended to “briefly shock” Bruce to discipline him after he unexpectedly “took off” in The Drift, Gunby, on November 6 2021.

She said the incident lasted four seconds and there had been no change in her relationship with Bruce since.

She also wept in the witness box as she said she and her family had received death threats over what happened, as well as losing her job as a primary school teacher.

Her barrister, Derek Duffy, told the jury: “Sarah Moulds says ‘I was punishing that horse for walking off because it’s a child’s pony, and if a pony walks off on a road with a child holding it, it is a dangerous activity’.

“The reason the horse is punished is because you can’t tell it what to do.

“We are in an area of speculation because there is no empirical evidence that you can rely on.

“The RSPCA did not examine this horse.

“There is no evidence to say it had any injury whatsoever.”

Moulds, of Somerby, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, denies causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and not taking reasonable steps to protect the animal from pain, suffering, injury or disease.

The trial continues.