Former owner of Tring racehorse defends Grand National against animal cruelty criticism

Northern Lion at the last fence at Towcester going on to win. PNL-140318-153000001
Northern Lion at the last fence at Towcester going on to win. PNL-140318-153000001

A former racehorse owner has spoken out against critics of the Grand National in response to criticism from animal rights campaigners.

The four-mile National Hunt race, where horses have to jump 30 fences during two laps of Liverpool’s Aintree course, will take place this year on Saturday, April 5.

This website last week reported the concerns of animal rights campaigner Anne Duvall, who complained that 36 horses have died competing in the race in the last 50 years.

But Richard Halling, 77, of The Greenwood, Aston Clinton, said that by comparison, 1,764 have returned safely.

He said: “No man can force a horse to do anything it does not wish to,certainly not jump fences.

“The horses’ accommodation, food & care is of a higher standard than many humans enjoy.

“Top quality dietary attention and measured exercise ensures that racehorses are not afflicted with obesity.

“In short, racing folk look after their charges better than themselves.”

Mr Halling, a former Dacorum Borough Councillor for Tring, owned the town’s TF Price bookmakers and arranged for Red Rum to visit the area twice.

He said that vets reach injured racehorses more quickly than a doctor would reach you or I if we needed help.

He bought his own racehorse, called Northern Lion, when the horse was aged six or seven. The thoroughbred won one hurdle and four steeplechase races before retiring due to a leg injury.

Mr Halling said: “He became one of the family and was cared for by my daughter and for her it was an absolute love affair.”

Daughter Sarah Cowle looked after Northern Lion for more than 10 years at Drayton Manor livery in Tring.

She said: “He was a superb horse, full of courage, intelligence, and self-confidence – he genuinely believed he was the best and was the leader of the pack.

“He always wanted to be active and certainly was not one to be pensioned off in a field.”

After retiring he took part in the showjumping, working hunter and veteran classes of various shows as well as taking part in sponsored cross-country rides.

He finished in the top 10 of a big field at the English BHS Trec Championship – a three-phase contest that includes orienteering.