Gallop Stable addresses horse mistreatment allegations made by ex-riding instructor

We head down to check it out.

Julia Yee | October 10, 2023, 11:13 AM

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An ex-instructor from Gallop Stable, the local horse riding academy, has set out to expose the company's alleged mistreatment of horses under its care.

Unveiling receipts and horror stories about neglected equines, overworked horses, and silenced whistleblowers, the picture they painted of the situation at Gallop Stable was nothing less than disturbing.

Mothership reached out to the stable's operations director, Bell, but he declined to comment.

He instead requested that we head down to scout out the riding school for ourselves.

Only when we met in person did he then address the slew of allegations made against Gallop Stable.


Feeding is a controversial topic within the company, the former staff member told us.

This instructor, who had left Gallop's Bukit Timah branch after two years in 2022, said that they "fought" several times for a horse, Wax, to be better fed.

Photo via former Gallop staff

"I witnessed several arguments between staff and management about feeding the horses more, where management completely dismissed concerns," the instructor said.

In photos supplied by anonymous sources from the stables, some of the now deceased horses had skin stretched taut over their ribs and hollows etched into their quarters.

Photo from Instagram

"I've heard rumours that the food is goat feed as all the feed is unlabelled and stored in unsanitary conditions, however, I don't know how much truth is in these rumours," the ex-employee added.

Photos from Instagram

When confronted with photos of Wax, the operations director explained that the horse had lost weight due to lymphangitis — a bacterial infection that causes swelling in the legs.

"When [the horse] is in pain, their condition deteriorates very fast, but to build it back up takes time. There are two ways of building them back up. One is using chemicals like steroids and the other is natural. We always believe in the natural way," Bell shared.

He was quick to point out that the stable took in retired race horses from the Turf Club, who had outlived their peak on the track and were in danger of being put down.

Out of the 150 or so equines stabled at the Bukit Timah ranch, only a fraction are deemed fit to be saddled up for riding lessons.

"These ex-race horses don't come to us sound. They're not perfect. Some of them come with injuries and bad habits," he said.

Bell confirmed that Wax had later died, but clarified that it was because of a separate disease.

Of the "mystery" feed, Bell claimed that the school imports all of the horses' food, which has been vetted by the relevant authorities.

He also said that there was no need to label the feed since it was just for in-house use.

Debate over euthanasia

The ex-instructor damned the hours clocked by the company's four-legged workers.

"One pony collapsed and seized in front of me, but was put to work only a week later," she said.

Another horse, Klass, was said to have been ridden even with "extreme swelling" in his leg.

We paid a visit to the equine in question, who greeted us with an alarmingly swollen hind leg.

Photo by Julia Yee

Bell confirmed that the bad leg was caused by an infection called lymphangitis.

But he offered a drastically different view on its recommended treatment.

"If this horse is not worked out on a regular basis, the leg will get bigger and bigger. This leg will never get smaller, but if he doesn't work out, eventually he won't be able to walk," he explained.

When probed further about how the infection arose, he simply said that it could've been caused by an "old injury".

Yet another equine, Owl, was said to have contracted a similar infection in his leg, resulting in an abnormal gait.

Gif from former Gallop staff

According to the former staff, Owl was left in a field overnight to die.

"A lot of the horses are dying of the same thing — an infection in the leg, then becoming malnourished and dying. This infection happens when a horse gets a cut in its hoof or leg, which then comes into contact with bacteria from unsanitary conditions. It shouldn't be fatal with the right treatment and vet advice."

Gallop Stable supposedly turned a blind eye until it was too late, and even then, dismissed professional advice.

"The management at Gallop absolutely refused to euthanise horses despite their suffering. Many of them should've been put down a long time ago," the ex-instructor fumed.

"We save these horses and then we put them here, and unless they're suffering, we do not put them down. Even with a vet's intervention, sometimes it doesn't get any better. So, does that mean that we should kill them?" Bell countered.

"As long as [the horse] is able to eat, to poop, to go to the paddock everyday, and people can walk him, it's okay, it can stay alive. Unless its condition is deteriorating and the suffering is getting worse day by day, and the vet says it's better to let this one go, then we'll discuss with the vet if there's any other option."

Living conditions

There's more to the stable than meets the eye.

The ex-instructor had revealed that the company hides its sick and injured equines in a derelict three-storey "carpark", safely tucked away from public scrutiny.

Photo from Instagram

This makeshift "stable" was described to be secured with a padlock, and even the staff members are restricted from entering.

If a member of the public were to approach the building, someone would appear and "escort" them away.

From what we gleaned from our informer and anonymous accounts online, this ramshackle building sounded like a house of horrors.

Photo from Instagram

When we threw out the words "three-storey carpark" to Bell, however, he looked puzzled.

"Oh," he said after a moment, "It's not a carpark. It's an approved stable."

He added that it was designed with the sole purpose of housing horses.

Bell then led us past a basketball court to the building stationed at the edge of the grounds.

Gif by Julia Yee

"Do you think a car can fit through here?" Bell questioned, gesturing to the narrow entrance.

But former staff had more sinister things to rat on the place, beyond its questionable origins:

"[Gallop] filled up the place with ponies and horses sharing stables. It is a prison for the animals. In my two years there, I've never seen any of the horses or ponies shown in the footage released by @save.gallopstables.horses on Instagram. These animals have not seen an inch of grass or the sun in years. Its just horrific to even think about it."

To Bell, this was actually the ideal place for horse "R&R".

Each of the stalls had a fan and was dimly lit by fluorescent lighting.

Photo by Julia Yee

The horses that are too old or unfit to ever be ridden are housed here, Bell said.

He explained that the building was cooler and quieter, offering a comfortable hideaway from the activity in the arenas.

Gif by Julia Yee

Noting our looks of concern at some of the horses' skin and coat conditions, Bell said that they were due to old age.

Photo by Julia Yee

Later on, when we returned to the outdoor stalls, we noticed some bore tell-tale signs of frustrated, stressed, and bored occupants.

Such as excessive kick marks on the walls.

Photo by Julia Yee

Meanwhile, we caught some horses in the midst of cribbing — a repetitive action whereby the horse bites onto something and pulls back with their neck muscles while sucking in air.

Gif by Julia Yee

We also saw a lone equine pacing in circles.

Many of the other horses were weaving — another repetitive act whereby the horse sways its neck and forelegs from side to side.

Gif by Julia Yee

To the layman's eye, this act seemed innocuous enough, and even amusing as it looked like the horses were grooving together to an unsung tune.

Gif by Julia Yee

It actually belied a much more serious problem.

Bell was keen to stress that the horses were let out to the padlock regularly.

But since weaving is a vice that develops due to stress and the urge for more freedom, it signalled to us that perhaps these horses weren't as well exercise as they ought to be, especially given their racing backgrounds.

Gif by Julia Yee

These were all just "bad habits" leftover from a racing past, said Bell with a note of finality.

AVS involved

When late 2020 rolled around, the staff sought help from a bigger man: the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS).

The organisation sent people down to the stable where they interviewed the staff and collected evidence.

"I was told I would hear back from them as they took my details and statement, asking if I would take a stand in court to which I said yes," stated the former staff.

"I never heard about it again. I do not know if they even visited Gallop. The issue with the government system is these people do not know what a healthy horse should look like. Inspections need to start being done by equine professionals. Any vet walking through Gallop would immediately ring alarm bells."

Responding to Mothership's query, the group director of AVS Jessica Kwok ascertained that they had "acted on the feedback received and carried out investigations" on a " licensed equine establishment".

"Breaches to the equine licensing conditions were found and enforcement was taken. In addition, as part of compliance management, AVS has been monitoring the compliance by the equine establishment with AVS’ licensing conditions through regular site inspections, including checking on the health status of their horses and ponies. Enforcement actions will be taken if there are any breaches to regulations or licensing conditions."

Another investigation was conducted in June 2023 in relation to another feedback regarding the welfare of the horses kept at "the equine establishment".

AVS asked the establishment to provide information related to the management of their horses on Aug. 16 2023, said Kwok.

Investigations are still ongoing.

"Nothing to hide"

Before we took our leave from the stables, we brought up a question that had been nagging in the back of our minds:

If things at the stables are as well and good as we'd heard, then what's fuelling the regular accusations made against Gallop?

At this, Bell said: "We have volunteers who come here to support our principles and aims, but since we're very strict with our protocols, we step onto people's toes sometimes."

The ex-instructor also touched on this particular point of tension, and had expressed that she had been wrongfully accused of slacking off.

But she was not going to be "silenced" any longer.

"Everyone working there knows it's an issue, but the staff there are too scared to speak up as threats of unemployment and legal action cloud free speech.

Aside from firing employees, my old students have come to me stating that the head manager of Gallop harassed their families through multiple phone calls to silence them for speaking up. I know firsthand that she has tried contacting my family as well after I have been speaking up.

The management team had a manipulative way of making it seem like they had everything under control, which evidently they do not."

The way Bell saw it, however, such complains stemmed from disgruntled workers who were let go due to valid reasons such as "bad attitude".

Laughing off the accusation, the operations director said:

"If I wanted to silence them, why would I fire them? We've never fired people based on this. We're very strict about [the horses' welfare] and we reprimand people when they're late [for feeding]. We reprimand people, sometimes suspend them... Sometimes you have volunteers who are not happy because they come here to have fun."

Caught in the middle of the accusations and subtle jabs thrown by the two sides, it then became clear that while the welfare of the animals was definitely of concern, the situation at Gallop was further soured by internal politics of which we'd only just scratched the surface.

Still, up until the moment we waved goodbye, Bell firmly maintained that Gallop had no blood on their hands — at least where the treatment of their horses was concerned.

"There's nothing for us to hide," he said.

Photo by Julia Yee

Previous scandals

This former instructor isn't the only one with an axe to grind.

Several of such pages have surfaced on social media, hoping to shed light on the alleged mistreatment of Gallop horses.

Back in 2017, the company was found guilty and fined S$9,000 for failing to provide adequate veterinary attention to a 17-year-old chestnut thoroughbred mare, Sharpy, at its Pasir Ris Green ranch.

In March 2023, the stables once again came under fire from the public and animal welfare groups for overworking their ponies at the Geylang Serai bazaar.

Top photos by Julia Yee