What a load of old Dobbin

It’s panto season again I see :

Middle-class couples are increasingly falling out over who gets the HORSE in bitter divorce battles

The Daily Mail come trotting in with the simply MASSIVE news that 6% of the people instructing one firm of solicitors ‘ave an ‘oss. It’s a shame they fail to capitalise on the pun-potential about how often this phenomenon CROPS up, and how often husbands are SADDLED with the costs of supporting their old NAGS. But HAY….I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, I reckon I can recycle this and make it into a post of my own.

I really can’t tell you how much of a non-thing this piece is. It’s not even a clothes horse.

“Up to one in 15 break-ups among better-off couples involves a dispute over who keeps the mount, an analysis found.”


The astute amongst you (give yourselves a sugar lump) will have noticed that the firm of solicitors (who happen to be benefitting from a spot of free publicity here) had 300 divorce cases last year, 19 of which involved an argument of some description involving a horse (no doubt amongst a stable of other issues). That’s about one in 15. That isn’t a coincidence – that’s THE analysis. It would be churlish of me to point out there is just a tiny problem with an analysis supporting the proposition that there is an INCREASE in something where it doesn’t analyse change over at least two time points… Hardly thoroughbred research, but if its got four legs and goes neigh who am I to argue?

Let’s just assume that this extrapolates to the wider getting-divorced community (it very well might not). So WHAT? Are we surprised to find that 6% of people with money to burn on divorce lawyers have a pony? No. No folks, we really aren’t.

It isn’t even 19 cases where the argument is about ownership of the hoss. Some of them are about the costs of the hoss. Given that a hoss costs about 3 grand a year to run (thanks to the superb investigative journalism of the Daily Mail we have an actual figure) this is something that any couple who owned a horse would be obliged to disclose as an outgoing, along with the value of the horse. So really this just means 19 of the couples HAD A HORSE. That got mentioned, because it had to be. Even though in most cases where there is a horse the 3 grand a year it costs t keep is frankly a drop in the ocean compared to legal costs or overall assets or outgoings.

Appaz, husband’s often say our four legged friends are luxuries, whilst wives say they are necessities. Yawn. In case you hadn’t picked up that this is all about demanding wives and their fripperies, we are also given some stats showing that most horse riders are women.

At some point the solicitor with vast numbers of horse-ophile clients (who I am guessing represents primarily husbands, and if she didn’t before will from now on) ventures this sweeping generalisation about childless couples : ‘In those cases, horses become a substitute part of their wives’ lifestyles and are almost treated as surrogate children.’

Nosebags for life, ladies. Nosebags for life.

Anyway, back to the race….

The fact that the writers of this piece have to trawl back to 2008 (Wright v Wright), a decade ago, to find a case (purportedly) about a horse, really just goes to show how much this is a stretch. The Mail juxtapose the “man of integrity” Mr Wright against the financially irresponsible, workshy Mrs Wright (I paraphrase but only loosely). This, to be fair, is a pretty accurate summary of the conclusions of the Court of Appeal in the 2014 variation application, but that judgment says NOTHING about horses – although we can see from contemporaneous reports (apparently when permission to appeal was refused by the Court of Appeal the following year) that Mr Wright is a horse surgeon and there are some other horsey related background facts, which were hardly the central issue or cost in this dispute (if it were I’ll hazard a guess we’d have seen it in the judgment) :

Mrs Wright, a former riding instructor and legal secretary who lives with her younger daughter, 10, chose not to work when she and vet Ian Wright divorced in 2008 after 11 years of marriage. 

Their £1.3?million seven-bedroom home was ordered to be sold and the proceeds split. Mrs Wright came away with a £450,000 mortgage-free house in Newmarket plus stabling for her horse and her daughters’ ponies…As part of the divorce order, Mrs Wright got £33,200 a year for her personal upkeep. (Evening Standard 23 Feb 15)

Be that as it may, it seems that we are supposed to take horse ownership as some sort of warning beacon or proxy for money grabbing wives. Otherwise, what is the ACTUAL POINT of this article? Apart from to whip me into a frothing, foot stamping MARE…

In the interests of balance I observe that The Mail don’t cite Gray v Work [2015], where the horses get their own heading – however the paragraph beneath is a sentence long because the parties had agreed the ownership of the horses. But anyway, I’ve conducted AN ANALYSIS of that judgment and it seems horses aren’t really that important. So trot on.

Hat tip to @byron_barrister whose much more moderate tweets sent me galloping off to the Daily Mail angry barn.

6 thoughts on “What a load of old Dobbin

  1. I was about to say that horses don’t often feature in care proceedings. But then I remembered a case that I’ve spent a long long time supressing the memory of. So erm, thanks for that.

  2. I can see why the Solicitors would want the publicity. There’s a lot of jockeying for position in their field…

  3. King Solomon’s judgment could be appropriately applied. Although I wonder what the Court of Appeal of Judaea would have made of that?

  4. The judgment of Solomon should be adapted for custody-of-horse disputes. Although I would have to wonder what the Court of Appeal of Judaea would have made of that. “The judgment took an unusual course . . .”

  5. One of my former divorce clients once hired me to recover her horse which had been nicked by parties known. My protestations about being a divorce lawyer with a distinct lack of horse rustling experience came to neigh-t.

    The police officer who recovered the horse had previously worked in an armed response team and felt it was all a bit too Hot Fuzz.

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