An Instagram influencer has come under fire for “animal cruelty” after posing for a picture riding a horse through the ocean.
Canadian Kristen Hancher, was snapped wearing a leopard patterned bikini atop a horse while on a Caribbean holiday.
The picture was shared to her 5.8 million Instagram followers last Tuesday, with many claiming the influencer was putting the animal in danger for the sake of a photo opportunity.
The picture, which was taken while Ms Hancher was holidaying in Anguilla, shows the horse up to its neck in aqua blue water, ridden on a saddle by the model.
The picture has gotten 375,166 likes, but was also hit with a barrage of negative comments from people condemning the social media star for putting the horse in “danger”.
“OMG you don't take a horse that deep into the water," one wrote.
A second added: “tHe hOrSe mIgHt dRoWn oMg gEt oFf iT.”
“Nice to know you love animal abuse because you have so much money,” another said.
Others took issue with the way the woman was positioned on top of the horse.
“I can hear the horses spine breaking (not because she's heavy or anything but because she isn't sitting on the horse in a right way),” one commented.
Why it isn’t dangerous
Despite the negative comments, Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Science, told Yahoo News Australia Ms Hancher actually hasn’t done anything wrong.
“When swimming, the horse uses its hooves as paddles with a trotting action, but is required to keep the neck extended and the head relatively still,” Professor McGreevy said.
“Despite the buoyancy afforded by displacing such a large volume of water, the effort required to move in the water with such small paddles, while inflating the lungs against the pressure of the surrounding water, makes swimming very hard work.
“This accounts for much of the grunting one hears from horses as they swim.
“The horse in the photo is not having to swim but instead can stand in the water without effort.”
Influencer defends riding horse in water
A representative defended Ms Hancher’s choice of photo shoot in a statement to Buzzfeed, claiming the horse was not in danger as a local guide accompanied her to help handle the animal through the water.
“The horse was safe at all times,” the representative added, saying the water was still.
Horse owners are known to take their horses to the beach for exercise and rehabilitation, particularly racehorses.
Charter companies are listed online offering guided horseback riding tours in the Caribbean Ocean, with one Anguilla company receiving excellent reviews from visitors on Tripadvisor.
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