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Ever Been Ad? The Brutal Reality of Rogue Traders

Updated: May 9

Trudy was bought from a dealer
Pony Pals: Hector and Trudy loving life with Kathryn and Patrick

“No more horses!” my financially fatigued husband sighed wearily as the latest vets, farrier, and feed bills landed on the doormat in quick succession.

I am already the proud owner of two youngsters, but like any self-respecting horsey person, you can’t help scrolling through the For Sale pages for a cheeky look now and then.

My chestnut Irish Draught, Hector, turns three in July and will be away for several months getting professionally backed. It will leave my two-year-old coloured cob Tristan on his lonesome, a perfect reason, surely, to think about a third, despite Patrick’s impassioned pleas.

I looked at loads – maybe a quiet, sturdy cob Patrick and I could share, or a broodmare, perhaps? I’ve always harboured a secret desire to breed a foal. Or perhaps we could look for a companion from a horse rescue shelter?

As I was quietly contemplating, the phone rang. A friend had heard of a mare who was horribly mis-sold to a novice lady by unscrupulous dealers and the horse was looking for a new home.

These rogue traders – based on the Scottish Borders – had advertised this little cob as a 13.2, eight-year-old. They backed her, shod her, clipped her and had a big lump of a man riding her in their ‘For Sale’ ad. Trudy then travelled all the way to her new home in Wales on a fake passport.

In actual fact, Trudy was 12.2hh on her tippy toes. More worryingly, her chip revealed she was just two years and six months old.

Trudy fell victim to rogue dealers
Not So Tall Story: the advert claimed Trudy was six years older than she actually was

Her owner sent her to a dealer friend’s yard in Macclesfield to try and find a more experienced home where she could be turned away for a year to enjoy life and mature.

Trudy was certainly not the kind of horse I had in mind, a young, hairy, gypsy cob who had clearly endured an awful start to her young life … but there was something about her in the photos and videos which tugged at my heart strings.

No matter how many other horses I looked at my mind kept wandering back to this scruffy looking baby and I knew I had to have her.


Two weeks later, Trudy was back in Wales for a third time, coming to our small yard in the rural Brecon Beacons. I promised her a more peaceful, loving, and permanent home. 

As the lorry doors swung open, I wasn’t even sure there was a horse inside she was so small. As she clip-clopped down the ramp I thought “blimey she’s weeny” but she had the sweetest of faces, and the kindest and gentlest looking liquid brown eyes.

Despite having endured another arduous journey, she walked happily and quietly to her stable as she nuzzled into my coat searching for the apples and carrots bulging in my pockets.

However, even my inexperienced eye couldn’t fail to notice that Trudy was almost as wide as she was tall.

“You don’t think she’s in foal, do you?” I anxiously asked Chloe, a most brilliant young horsewoman who comes to help me out.

A quick check revealed some wax on the mare’s teat, swiftly followed by an examination from equine vet, Lisa, who was in no doubt. Despite being a baby herself Trudy was in foal and it was a matter of weeks not months until the new arrival. YIKES!

Once Patrick had picked himself up off the floor, he took the news remarkably well. We weren’t just getting a third horse, but a fourth!

But this was no fairytale ending just yet. Trudy’s mouth was covered in cuts and bruises from an ill-fitting bit being forced into her tender young mouth. She was covered in rain scald, had a chronic lice infestation, and she was riddled with worms.

She itched so badly she broke a fence, a sturdy wheelbarrow and ripped the automatic waterer off the stable wall as she frantically tried to relieve the constant irritation. If you petted her, she leaned in for a rub, which almost knocked you off your feet such was her urge to scratch.

She cumbersomely lifted her front feet under the weight of two heavy and grossly unsuitable metal shoes. Her thick, smoky silver tail was so matted that despite the best detangling products on the market I had no choice but to cut a chunk off.

I wasn’t sure which was more heartbreaking; to see the state she was in or her still sweet and trusting nature despite the abuse and neglect she had suffered.


Trudy was understandably nervous in her new environment, and what the motives of these latest humans might be, but with a lot of patience and affection she soon settled and my big chestnut Hector was in lurve! 

As a former journalist I decided to do some digging into Trudy’s background to see if I could uncover her story.

Trudy was originally sold by good dealers
A Good Dealer: Trudy was originally in the hands of reputable traders

It appears she was initially bred by the reputable Stenries View Cobs in Scotland, then brought to Wales in July last year where she was auctioned at The Brecon Horse Sales to an unknown buyer. Ironically, I was at that very sale after a friend persuaded me to go. You can clearly see me ringside directly opposite the auctioneer in the live stream. I don’t remember little Trudy though.

I do unfortunately remember the scores of ponies and horses standing in outside pens in the blistering heat, many without shade, some without water. I also remember the auctioneer halting the sale briefly to ask one owner to attend to his pony after several complaints it looked unwell.

Horse dealers jostled for the best positions. The meat man hovered in the shadows watching out for very young ponies and foals straight off the mountains who went for as little as £30. One chestnut mare stood painfully thin, her ribs and hip bones jutting out. Her condition sparked a backlash of angry comments and concerns on the auctioneer’s Facebook page. These were all swiftly deleted.

It was my first and last horse sale.


The average pregnancy of a horse is 11 months so it’s highly likely Trudy was in foal when she was paraded round the sales ring.

It seems she went from the sale in Wales all the way back to Scotland where she ended up in the hands of the aforementioned horse traders who regularly grace the online Dodgy Dealers sites with a tsunami of complaints from angry and upset customers.

Here it seems Trudy was living out in harsh conditions with a mixed herd for several months. The state of her feet was testament to this.

In February this year she was advertised on a ‘for sale’ website under the words: “Find me a better type of kid’s pony…il wait This has to top all the pony clubbers on the planet.13.2hh 8-year-old mare…”

In a video, a tall, hefty looking man is riding Trudy along a road with his legs jockey style to make her look taller. If you look more closely you can see the pony playing with the bit as she is clearly not used to the cold, hard piece of metal thrust into her tender mouth.

Then, as so often happens, another unsuspecting customer fell into the hands of these cheats after buying Trudy unseen. It’s easy to criticise the woman buyer for the decision, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Thankfully, there are plenty of honest and reputable dealers out there. I bought Tristan unseen from a lovely woman in Norfolk whose customer reviews are outstanding.

Sadly, the world of breeding commercially less-valuable horses and ponies is woefully unregulated, leading to thousands of unwanted and neglected animals. The cost-of-living crisis is also biting hard and people can’t afford to keep them. A horse sanctuary near me rescued a starving colt recently who was crippled with mud fever. His owner couldn’t even give him away so she left him tied up on a roundabout.

Yet still the unlicensed breeding of some horses goes on undeterred.


Today, Trudy is lice and worm free, and she comes in every night to a large, comfortable stable, knee deep in fresh straw with more quality hay than she could ever have dreamt of. She’s certainly eating for two and Patrick has set up a camera so I can keep a close eye on my little mum-to-be and watch for any signs of foaling.

My farrier took off Trudy’s ghastly metal platform shoes and trimmed her feet. Vet Lisa has looked in a few times to check her over. She’s certainly filling out now and has a lovely shine to her coat. The rain scald, cuts, and bruises are all healing, and I hope the emotional scars are too.

She whinnies me a greeting every morning and rests her head on my shoulder for a cuddle in the evenings, and she’ll stand on her head for an apple or carrot, shaking excitedly when she hears the rustle of the treat bag. It’s hard to predict exactly when she will foal, but watch this space!

I wish I could open my heart and my home to more horses like Trudy, but I try to console myself with the thought that saving one is better than saving none.

 Trudy Today: pictured with the author's mum and enjoying farm life in rural Wales.


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