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28 October 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - East: Monday 9th September, 2002


Horse trotting
“We are the original Posh & Becks”
Billy and his wife Joy Beverley

Every week in the East, illegal horse races take place on open roads. They attract hundreds of travellers who come to watch.

Some might say the thundering horses and their two-wheel carriages seriously endanger other road users.

Inside Out has penetrated the clandestine world of 'trotting' to gain a unique insight.

Fear of arrest

"It's not an issue for us... They have the right to use the road as much as anyone else."
Hertfordshire Police Officer

During Inside Out's investigation, a Hertfordshire Trotter cautiously agreed to the filming of a race.

During the race, the trotters were in fear of arrest.

Inside Out asked Hertfordshire Police to comment on the races.

Despite their presence in the area at the time of the race, they said, "It is not an issue for us here in Hertfordshire. They have a right to use the road as much as anyone else."

But not everyone would agree.

Opposing views

Some animal welfare organisations and road users believe that the police should stop these races.

A trotting race
Supporters hang from car windows during the race

An RSPCA spokesperson told Inside Out, 'The activity by it's very nature will compromise the welfare of the horses.'

But the trotters Inside Out talked to, many of whom were travellers, wanted to express why they are determined to preserve their ‘sport’…

The Trotters' view

  • Century-old tradition that binds communities. Many trotters' lives are steeped in the 'sport'.
  • Trotters have a right to use public highways as much as car drivers.
  • Horses are well cared for by the trotting community.
  • Travellers are socially excluded from more prestigious, legal tracks.

The Opposers' view

  • It encourages illegal gambling. Thousands of pounds change hands at each race.
  • Innocent car drivers could be killed as horses veer across roads.
  • It is cruel as horses could be killed by vehicles or unregulated conditions.
  • Harness Racing is the legal form of the sport and enthusiasts can indulge this.

Speaking out

Harry Harbour, a previous trotter
Harry claims the horses are not treated cruelly

Harry Harbour is respected as a road racer in trotting circles.

A voice of reason, he recognises the difficulties travellers face. In particular, he defends the way the horses are gaited and treated.

He says "It's not cruel at all. It's in the horse to do it. It (moving in the gait) is an easy action."

Future opposition

The trotters claim they will fight to the last to keep their sport going.

But road racing’s alleged lack of safety and regulation means that they will meet fierce opposition.

This issue is not only in the East. Inside Out's North East and Cumbria team have also uncovered illegal trotting.


See also ...

On the rest of the web
Official UK harness racing
Legal tracks in the UK

International League for the Protection of Horses

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