Skip to main content

Animal abuse and cruelty at Smithfield Horse Market in Dublin

Vote now

PICTURE GALLERY: See a teenage boy desperately cling on as his horse rears vertically at the market. Click here for the best collection on the web of Smithfield horse market pictures

The original Smithfield horse market blog with pictures, video, maps, hotels, dates, horse care tips and more!


There are few places in the world where animal cruelty continues on a regular basis. That makes the unspeakable treatment of ponies at the Smithfield Horse Market in Dublin, Ireland on the first Sunday of every month even more unbelievable.

If your're not familiar with the market and its background then please read the hub Smithfield Horse Market for more information on this.

I was at the market for two to three hours on Sunday March 7 and witnessed the most appalling cases of animal abuse that I've ever seen. The following is a shocking list of just some examples of cruelty that I saw during a very short time at the market. Bear in mind this same market happens every month and can last from 5am until midday.

  • Ponies rearing and bucking while tied by their necks with strong rope to lampposts
  • A pony being hanged because it spooked and fell while tied to a lamppost with rope that was too short
  • A thug stretching a pony's hind leg behind to try to remove a loose shoe and then FOOTBALL KICKING the pony in stomach at full force because it wouldn't keep its leg still. The youth then hit the pony repeatedly in the stomach with metal pliers
  • Severely underweight ponies
  • Ponies being yanked hard in the mouth as they were dragged around the market
  • A terrified Shire horse rearing and kicking for over five minutes in the centre of the market
  • Dozens of ponies and horses being struck with thick canes to make them walk
  • Dozens of ponies and horses spooking, kicking, biting, spinning and rearing

Now, I am not the first person to notice this cruelty and I certainly won't be the last. There is currently a petittion online calling for the marlet to be closed. The local authority, Dublin City Council, and the Dublin Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) have called for the market to be closed.

However, people calling for the market to be closed are as arrogant, self-righteous and utterly misguided as the animal abusers themselves. Yes Dublin City Council and the DSPCA - and whichever fruitcake started an online petittion - I'm talking to you.

What others thought that day

There were around 300 different ponies and horses at the market. There were at least another 300 buyers and sellers - not to mention photographers and tourists who visited the event. This is a unique Irish tradition in a country of horse lovers.

Many of the ponies were beautiful equines that would make perfect companions and riding horses. Many, were well groomed, fit and healthy. For every poorly treated pony I estimate that there were nine reasonably well-looked after and cared for animals.

And further more, I make the estimate that the poor treatment accounted for less than five percent of what happened that day.

Anybody who is making sweeping claims to close the market has not balanced into their view the immense enjoyment that these animals bring to the deprived lives of hundreds of children and teenagers who use the market. They've not thought about the cherished family pet that the ponies become. And more importantly, they've not realised that by forcing the market underground they will be taking it away from a very public and well policed area of the city where trading can be watched by officials.

Now, I'm going to get on my political soapbox. I suggest that the market remains open - but changes are made to the way that the market is run. These are as follows:

  1. An independent group of traders and one council official is set up to represent the interests of those who use the market.
  2. Dublin City Council allocates part of its budget for horse care and riding lessons for the ''pony kids'' who use the market.
  3. CCTV is installed in the market area and the Garda arrest anybody they see committing overt cruelty to an animal such as violently punching, kicking or striking.

That is my review of what I saw at the market. There is currently no resolution to solving promlems associated with the market. The city council has tried to ban the market but that hasn't worked. One might suggest that in its quest to be a politically correct part of Europe, the city council has forgotten ordinary Dubliners who make it such a special place - but that's another matter entirely.

What's clear is that there's currently a stale-mate (and again, if you're not familiar with this please read my other hub on Smithfield Horse Market) where the council wants to move the market - possibly because it doesn't fit their redevelopment of Smithfield as an upmarket area - and the traders who have a legal right to use the area.

I hope that what I've written here and earlier can go some way into finding a way forward for the animals and their owners. Please feel free to leave your views below.

Scroll to Continue

More Smithfield and gypsy horse hubs

  • PICTURE GALLEY: Smithfield horse market in Dublin, Ireland
    Smithfield horse market is a bustling 400-year-old horse fare in Dublin, Ireland that takes place on the first Sunday of the month, every month. Hundreds of horse lovers, traders and 'urban cowboy' pony kids...
  • Smithfield Horse Market in Dublin, Ireland
    Smithfield horse fair takes place on the first Sunday of the month. The next market is on April 3rd 2011. It starts from sunrise and finishes by noon. Smithfield horse market, in Dublin, Ireland, is one...
  • Urban horse riding and urban cowboys
    Urban horse riding is when children and teenagers keep horses in cities and housing estates in a striking contrast to the green countryside stables where equines are usually kept. These riders have...
  • Traditional gypsy horse fairs in the UK
    When: June every year Where: Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, Englan How much: Free Appleby Horse Fair is the largest and most well known equine market anywhere in the world. Every year thousands of Romany...
  • Appleby Horse Fair for Gypsies and Travellers
    Appleby Horse Fair is the largest and most well known equine market anywhere in the world. Every year more than 10,000 gypsies and travellers plus up to 30,000 visitors descend on the small town of...


carrolljenni on June 20, 2012:

I personally adore horses, and I am VERY against horse cruelty. But the Smithfield Horse Fair is a massive part of Dublin culture. While there are many cases of abuse, there are, as you've said, so many cases of happy healthy horses being sold there.

My friend and I are thinking of buying a pony in August, and if this Fair closes there's absolutely no way we could afford to buy one! Private sellers charge between €800 and €25,000 for an unbroken Connemara pony, but at the fair, we could get a sound horse for €200. And as for the skinny, abused horses, there are plenty of people willing to take them on. I know several yards that go in and buy 6 or 7 horses and ponies for as little as €25 each, they feed them up, break and school them, and are then able to keep them as riding school ponies, or sell them as top showjumping ponies!

If the Smithfield Fair was closed, those ponies would probably just rot in someone's back garden, and never find a good home.

I'm 100% in favour of this market.

Greg Harris on March 29, 2011:

Great to read balanced views and comments on Smithfield.I have been many times ,most animals at the fair are in great condition ,poor animals are in the minority.I think this is a great tradition and should be promoted more as a tourist attraction at it's current site. I think the young so called "urban cowboys" should be educated in basic equine husbandry . These kids don't have much going for them but some of these are natural horsemen. Just educate, don't condemn!

Con on March 08, 2011:

I was driving through Smithfield on Sunday as the Horse Market was in full progress when all hell broke loose! Horses were galloping in all directions, with and without riders (some riding bareback). One young girl of about 15 years was hanging on for dear life as a man tried to bring her pony under control.People were also fleeing from the Market Square, and I later found out that a feud had erupted between two groups of travellers and that a gun had been discharged injuring two men. It's a miracle that nobody had been killed, but since Sunday the calls to have the Market banned have grown louder and I think that if it's to continue radical changes will have to be made.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 08, 2011:

Thanks Laura, you're right, there are some animals at the market that do look worse than they actually are and there are some that are worse than they look. There are, however, a number of very nice young ponies that could go too really good homes.

laura meade on March 08, 2011:

i agree this market should not be stopped it will only lead to more horses being abandoned and starved to death, i under no circumstance condone cruelty as both a horse owner and all rpoound animal lover it makes me sick but at the fair these abused or starved horses get a chance for a better life in some cases also while cruelty is rampant some people only see what is in front of them and make judgement with no real knowledge of horses or animals for example an old horse even well fed and rugged after the winter we had will not be looking fab with age it is harder to keep condition on , their backs dip etc yet these people will pass a horse with a belly bloated with worms and think they are "grand and fat " (ive seen this first hand !

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 07, 2011:

Thanks for your comment, Lauren, and your opinion is valid. I do not believe that the market should be stopped completely as is the view put forward by the DSPCA. Bnaning the market will simply push it elsewhere, somewhere that is much less public, and it will cause a lot of resentment among the horse owners and traders. Much better would be to work with the younger generation of children and teenagers that own horses or buy them at the market and educate them about horse care with classes and workshops.

Lauren on March 06, 2011:

I think the Dublin horse fair should be got rid of completely it's to cruel nobody thinks of the poor horses they are terrified all squashed into that square people may just wake up and STOP this horses get scared and kick I wouldent blame them I would be scared too it's not horses falt it's the owners that are stupid enough to bring there poor horses to this terrible frightfull place it's to cruel and not fair to the horses I'm sorry bu it's just not on horses mean everything to me I love them so much I don't have one as we gave no land but I would do anything for a horse.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 06, 2011:

Thanks Vendla. Will have a look at your work. Rick

Vendla from Colorado on March 03, 2011:

It seems that the awful treatment of these beautiful creatures seems to take place all over the world. I run a horse rescue here in Colorado, USA. The things I have witnessed are sometimes to awful to even contemplate. I have started my own blog of sorts on this site on their stories and why I do what I do. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It is always good to get this type of thing out there for everyone to see.

chelsloveshorses on November 11, 2010:

hi i think that is just mean and a horse should trust you and want to be with you it should not under any cirrcumstances be HIT!!!!

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on October 29, 2010:

Pam, that's a really good suggestion. There needs to be more done to control the animal abuse - however small the minority of people who carry it out are.

IronHorse on October 22, 2010:

Just what the hell is wrong with the people in Dublin's Smithfield Horse Market, and their Animal abuse and cruelty...

Kathleen Basiewicz on October 22, 2010:

The horses deserve better than this. Dublin should be ashamed.

Pam Wilkins on October 22, 2010:

License the honest traders who treat their animals fair and with diginity to sell at the market and make it so only licensed buyers can purchase the ponies and horses. Street thugs wouldn't be interested if they had to pay for a license to buy nor would they be interested in a school for horse and pony care. Now that's another idea for first time buyers with a brand new license to purchase.

Honestspeak on September 19, 2010:

Weed out the tinkers and you'll have much less animal abuse.

sparky77 on August 11, 2010:

The treatment of horses by so called animal lovers is disgusting,owning a horse is a huge responsibility,not a toy for people that know nothing about the welfare of these beautiful animals to dump in housing estates and joyride like a clapped out car.i had horses as a child and worked very hard to provide them with proper shelter,food,bedding and a safe makes me so cross when i come home from work most days to see a poor horse being run into the ground or tied to a railing with no food or shelter.if they are to bring enjoyment to children,educate the children in how to care for them.Smithfield market needs to be regulated so thugs can't treat the horses badly and those who can't provide for the horses needs can't buy them.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on May 31, 2010:

Susie, I agree that the market is great for animal lovers. I visit regulary and it's great to see so many horses and ponies. (see ) But I do think that there needs to be a lot more done to encourage those who trade to treat their animals humanely. Even older expereinced traders have standards that would be frowned upon in most of the equestrian industry. There are too many thugs that become involved with the market who give it a bad name and first of all they need to be weeded out.

susie on May 30, 2010:

I am a horse lover i have 2 of my own and i love them to pieces and every month i go to the smithfield market and love viewing all the horses i will agree there is some cruelty that takes place but 9 times out of 10 the market is full of animal lovers and genuine dealers. i am sickend by animal cruelty but the market is great fun for animal lovers.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 31, 2010:

Thank you for your praise, Cathi. Animal cruelty is indeed as old as history and well-worn subject. I agree with you - it's important to highlight it , particularly in new and balanced ways.

Cathi Sutton on March 31, 2010:

This is a very well written Hub which addresses both sides of the coin, so to speak, and in a very intellagent way. Animal cruelty is as old as history, and will continue always I am afraid. But to point it out as you have done is a very important step! Thank you for writing this!

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 10, 2010:

You're absolutely right. Horses are wonderful and don't deserve to be treated badly by anybody. Thanks for leaving the comment as the more support that people the show the more likely it is that animal curelty can be gradually stopped.

Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on March 10, 2010:

THis makes me sad. Horses are such wonderful animals I do not understand how anyone would think it is ok to treat them in this way. I hope that something is done to put a stop to it.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 08, 2010:

Thanks for the comment, Con. Totally agree with everything you wrote. It's a case of balance and finding the best for everybody.

Con on March 08, 2010:

There were plans by Dublin City Council to move the market to a greenfield site on the city's outskirts and I think this might happen in the near future. I don't think the market can or should be banned and instead all relevant parties should work towards finding ways to improve the welfare of the animals. There is some supervision by Gardai (Police)at the moment but definitely not enough and there is no doubt that some cruelty does take place at the market. But it is also true that the market gives much pleasure to great many people, including visitors from overseas.

Related Articles