Celebrity cruel to polo pony

Celebrity Nicky van der Walt has been accused of animal cruelty at a polo match at a Franschhoek winelands estate.

The SPCA says Van der Walt, father of model Lee-Ann Liebenberg’s unborn child, used “unnecessary and excessive force” during the game at Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate.

Val de Vie, Western Cape venue of the BMW International Polo Series, has a scenic setting, but photographs taken at the farm after a polo match on April 24 painted a less rosy picture.

Cape Town SPCA stable manager Louis Joubert attended the game after complaints about the way horses were treated on the estate. He photographed a 10-year-old thoroughbred called Crooner with a bloody mouth.

Joubert sent a report to Val de Vie’s management but said he received no response. “I asked . who had ridden Crooner, and people said Nicky had. He was heavy-handed. It’s not necessary to yank a horse in the mouth like that,” said Joubert.

Through publicist Andrew Farr, Van der Walt said he “never even rode that horse”. Later he said: “The horses I was riding . were owned by Johan du Plooy, and were immaculately looked after.

“The horse in question could have sustained some injuries in an accident during the match in which I nearly broke my wrist . I totally dispute the SPCA report, and see it as somebody maliciously trying to bring down the sport.”

Du Plooy said Van der Walt rode Krona not Crooner. “I played against Nicky that day. And I saw Krona in the stables after the game, and she was looking fine.”

The match umpire, Kevin Rixon, said the horse could have bled as it was long in the tooth. “I did not see any dangerous riding. It could just be dentistry. Horses sometimes get bloody mouths because their teeth aren’t filed properly, so the bit cuts against their lips.”

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