A former teacher who was filmed kicking and slapping a horse has been cleared of an animal cruelty offence.
Sarah Moulds was found not guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, a grey pony she owned called Bruce.
She was filmed striking the animal on November 6, 2021 and lost her job as a primary school teacher a month later.
After a three-day trial at Lincoln Crown Court, the jury of 11 men and one woman cleared the 39-year-old after just over five hours of deliberation.
Moulds, and several friends and family who have supported her throughout proceedings, wept as the verdict was delivered.
Thanking the jury for their service, recorder Graham Huston said: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I know it was not an easy case, no case is easy, but some cases are more difficult than others.
“What is obvious is you gave this case the utmost attention and you proceeded with your deliberations carefully and thoroughly and I am very grateful to you.”
The jury had heard that Moulds had owned the horse, a child’s pony, for two-and-a-half years when they joined the Cottesmore Hunt, one of Britain’s oldest foxhound packs at the time of the incident.
Moulds had said that the horse “took off” unexpectedly while horses were being untacked, which saw him go “on a jolly” for 25 to 30 metres down the road in The Drift, Gunby, Lincolnshire.
As Bruce returned to his horse box, a hunt saboteur filmed Moulds kicking the horse in the chest and slapping him four times in the face before returning him to a horse box.
Prosecutor Hazel Stevens said that Bruce was “immediately chastised” for his misbehaviour and “suffered physically and mentally” from Moulds’ “unnecessary and counter-productive” actions.
Moulds was later sacked as a teacher in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, and was prosecuted by the RSPCA under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
An equine vet who gave evidence in court said Bruce demonstrated fear in the video, which the Crown said constituted suffering at Moulds’ hands.
But the vet conceded that there were no signs of external injury on Bruce and internal injuries could only have been confirmed if a post-mortem had been conducted.
Bruce was taken to a vet ten days after the incident and was found to be “in very good health” and still lives a “wonderfully idyllic life” with Moulds in Somerby, Melton Mowbray.
Giving evidence, Moulds said she and her children had received death threats and that her life had been “torn to pieces as a result of that four-second decision”.
She said she had intended to “briefly shock” Bruce to “discipline him quickly” for running off, which she believed could have had severe consequences for both Bruce and the child riding him.