Web ExclusiveThe latest news from inside FORTRESS WHITCHURCH is that troubled equine charity HorseWorld is to close its visitor centre in just over a month – on 27 February – despite a supposed ‘consultation exercise’ running until 24 February.

It comes on top of the sad news that today 28 REDUNDANCY NOTICES were issued to staff. Sources indicate that amongst those being primed for the chop is Animal Welfare Manager Jerry Watkins. That’s right: instead of acknowledging their terrible – and costly – business decisions and resigning themselves, the clique around MD Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen have decided to sack a bunch of already underpaid employees, including the one with the most professional experience of actually running an animal sanctuary!

If rumours are to be believed, cowardly Pinocchiowen sent Watkins his redundancy notice whilst he was away on holiday representing his country as UK team captain at the Khartoum International Tent-Pegging Competition

At this rate all that will be left of HorseWorld will be a paddock full of expensive, incompetent senior managers.

[Edited 29/1/14]


  1. Unbelievable

    HorseWorld is currently the fourth largest visitor attraction in B&NES and last year, welcomed over 100,000 people through its doors, so why on earth are these deluded Managers closing it?

    As Mr Owen said himself in ‘The Week In’, “The visitor centre has become an increasingly important source of funding in the last 12 years for HorseWorld’s charitable work as the amount of charitable donations has dwindled during the same period.” Pinocchiowen indeed !!!

    Personally, I think Owen is just throwing his toys out the pram because he hasn’t got his own way with the Council regarding Planning Permission. It’s about time he did the honourable thing and resigned himself. This has gone on too long and I think it’s disgusting that the hardworking staff are being penalised in this way.

  2. Enigma

    How can this man sleep at night ? What was once a well respected local Equine Charity is now a laughing stock due his gross mismanagement. Wonder what he did in a previous life? Anyone know?

  3. Ruthless

    How many people are aware the ‘Save HorseWorld’ petition actually means …. Close the existing Visitor Centre whatever, build houses eventually and a new Visitor Centre in a few years whilst the current Centre with 62 years of history stands derelict and rots! All this whilst the MD remains in post getting a pay check but reducing the amount of horses being rescued and in care because HorseWorld can no longer afford to do what is clearly listed under their Activities on the Charities Commission website! Do the honourable thing and stand down Mr Owen you know you ought to!!!

  4. shirley

    one day last week I was stood in the queue at horseworld with a friend and this man ordered lunch for FREE for him and his so called friends, a form was signed oviously he was the boss , he was having a good laugh in the conservatory ,but in the mean time I went to the toilet and could see a member of staff trying to console a poor lady that was completely heartbroken over her donkeys that she cared for over 43 years her babies she said , really I glad you ate your lunch ,I felt physically sick when I left , discusting

  5. Fairplay

    A friend told me that all this hate towards horse world is coming from an ex-employee, who probably earned a decent wage there himself. I’m wondering why he left now – was he kicked out?? Give the Charity a break now ehhh?

    1. Jooohn Ag Post author

      The BRISTOLIAN has multiple, verifiably accurate sources for our HorseWorld stories, including supporters of the actual welfare work it does, those very close to the management set-up, and those who work or have worked at HorseWorld (paid or unpaid). Note that none of our serious allegations have been refuted. Our robust criticisms of fanciful HorseWorld management claims have led to other news gatherers (eg BBC Bristol and the Post) revising their own, previously softball, approach, and questioning much of the PR fluff put out by Owen and his team.

      On the other hand, you – some random off the internet – are saying that ‘your friend’ (whose expertise, understanding or accuracy in the issue is not specified) said something about one person who may or may not have something to do with something or other. Clear as mud!

      If you think it will benefit neglected or abused equines to give your unconditional support to an overpaid failure of a managing director and the coterie around him who have enabled him to make ever more disastrous financial decisions, go ahead.

  6. A Friend told me....

    I HAVE A FRIEND who told me that there isn’t anything in these articles that isn’t TRUE!!! Therefore, whoever is writing them is irrelevant. What is it they say……TRUTH HURTS!!!!

  7. Enigma

    So many lies ! But not from our trusted Smitter. Public support is growing and there is only one way to redeem this Charity and its future and its not with a new 7 million pound new Visitor Centre!!

  8. HorseWispas

    All the info being published by the Bristolian seems quite accurate and highly credible, and is completely unrefuted by the charity itself. And all the info published by the @HorseWispas twitter account is from verifiable sources too, all in the public domain already but just needing a little time and effort to put together so the true story of the failed trustee / MD axis will eventually seep out.
    When the truth IS uncovered and widely understood, there will be NOBODY left who would dream to support what has gone on and what continues to go on.
    PS Is it the case that the Chair of Trustees is still in Barbados on holiday while 28 staff have been given redundancy notices? Anyone know?

  9. Worried

    Is there not a chance that Staff could boot Owen and his overpaid Management team out and run it themselves/recruit a new MD? As someone who regularly visits HorseWorld, and had done for many years, I would hate to see it go down the Pan because of the selfish acts of the current MD and self-interested Trustees. They need to stand down and give the much loved Charity a chance, enough is enough.

  10. My Little Pony

    The Charity does deserve a break ‘FairPlay’ : “This is a very sad day for HorseWorld. Our staff are incredibly dedicated to HorseWorld. They all do a fantastic job and I’m extremely grateful and proud of them all,” said HorseWorld’s managing director Mark Owen – for once he has spoken the truth, give everyone a break and listen to your own press release : “now we have to take some tough decisions to bring our losses under control” First decision – bye bye Mr managing director who doesn’t do a fantastic job!!!

  11. Concerned

    When are the trustees going to pull their heads out of the sand and listen to the voices of the people who have supported HorseWorld and give Mark Owen his marching orders ? Fat cats are not high on anyone’s Christmas card list so if you want support in the future do the right thing NOW . Come on trustees it’s time to act the curtain is up and the spotlight is on you all , do the right thing and you will hear the applause , after all HorseWorld is a class act but it needs a better director.

  12. Frustrated

    I think it’s about time marks choice of contractors is looked into the man and his ‘inner sanctum’ pays double price for his mates to do work around HW even when much cheaper quotes are given we all know cheaper isn’t always best but there have been times when he’s been spending almost double as much as is necessary – Wasting money MO surely not???

  13. A N Other

    Interesting – Not just the Trustee’s he’s ‘best mates’ with then!! Wouldn’t be surprised if a few fake invoices went through the books too!!!

  14. Disappointed

    How to upset a child in two easy steps…….visit their favourite place (we are Members) and ask to book a Birthday Party for the middle of March, only to be sadly told that unfortunately not only – step 1: sorry no Party (sad face) but also step 2: HorseWorld may be closing (free flowing tears) Well done Directors and a Happy New Year to you all !

  15. Frustrated

    Maybe questions need to be ask of half the staff are off why is there still a need for soooo many directors!! Can’t even call it too many chiefs as these people couldn’t lead a well behaved pony – no really they can’t!!

  16. Terry

    The damage that this has already caused is immense, and it seems to be spiraling everyday. I do hope that people will be able to tell the difference between hardworking and caring employes and volunteers and what seems to be a total lack of thought from others on behalf of what is a amazing charity. I can only hope and pray that somebody will see sense very soon and restructure Horseworld. I am not sure that surmising and speculating on issues that cannot be proven is helping, Horseworld needs all the support it can get. I agree that heads should roll and all questions need to be answered immediately. A thorough investigation into costs incurred by recent events should be carried out and made public, after all it is the public that have gone a long way to helping the great charity survive.
    Thank you to all those who have brought this issue to the public eye and I hope that the good people on the ground at Horseworld will keep their important jobs and survive this crisis. Others should think long and hard at their decisions and spending.

  17. HorseWispas

    As others have said, Horseworld is a simply AMAZING charity. Thanks to its animal welfare staff it does incredible work that makes the world a kinder and better place. It’s been around for over 60 years. It has amazing potential to do more great things in future. Bit only if certain things happen.

    The point is that the current Trustees and the managing director the Trustees appointed have led the charity close to ruin. If some transformation doesn’t happen VERY soon then the charity will die, along with the horses, the donkeys, the pigs, and so on.

    This can’t be allowed to happen. The proud and dedicated animal staff and animals deserve better than these comedians; the charlatans.

    So the only way forward is for the Trustees to ALL LEAVE and for their MD to be removed, post haste from his position, along with his senior management lackeys – who don’t have a jot of animal knowledge or concerns between them – with a new management structure in place – one that works WITH the community, not against it, and WITH the animals and animal staff, not against them.

  18. Lady T

    I would just like to point out that Jerry Watkins has not been away on holiday. He has actually been representing Great Britain in an international competition as a member of our tent pegging team.

    1. Jooohn Ag Post author

      Thank you for the clarification, Lady T. Appropriate amendments shall be made!

      And a valiant effort they appear to have put in at Khartoum, too.

  19. James

    The Charity Commission should also be notified of Owens antics. Someone with no equine background, paid a fortune, incompetent trustees, financial mismanagement, the list goes on. We should demand the release of the minutes of the trustee meetings.

  20. Mary

    Can anyone properly in the know consider calling the Charity Commission re this state of affairs? if it’s mismanagement of charity funds then it should be investigated. Could the problem also be that most of the trustees might be swayed by Mr Owen? They have a duty to act in the best interests of THE CHARITY and it’s aims. If anyone else (employees) knows the full facts of the situation and is sure of their facts and that money has been misappropriated or contracts given to ‘friends’ or suchlike, then read the attached link: But be sure of your facts and have proof or a paper trail.

  21. G.G.

    Will Mark Owen tell us the costs that will be incurred when members demand refunds when the Visitor Centre is closed?

  22. Lisa

    I was in HorseWorld the other day and I asked about memberships. The member of staff explained to me that refunds will be given and that there approximately 4000 members to refund on a pro rata basis. I thought they were in “consultation” about POSSIBLE closure but looks like minds have been made up!!

  23. Poo picker

    I would love to know how two wonderful and inspirational ladies (the founders) would feel if they seen what the management have done to Horseworld. They have built it up to make money and have failed miserably! The founders made the charity with there own good will and now it’s been left in the hands of money grabbing idiots who soon will not even be managing
    a popular visitor centre !?

    I would want to know how the management team intend on managing a charity when there only interests are in planning permission, they have no equine experience atall!

    It appears to me that the charity should be taken back to its roots and not be used as a money making scheme! We are all here for the animals and not the dumb-ass who are running the charity.

    I am very saddened to read that Jerry Watkins is also at risk, he is the heart of this charity and the only man who Deserves to run such a wonderful place..

  24. G !!!!!!! T

    its such a shame that we have worked continuously to keep the visitors centre and café open for so long. cutting cost as much as we can , we were also told in the last meeting that we had funds to last us for at least another two years , may I ask where is the money gone ,false invoices maybe. this man mark owen makes me want to vomit, to write his name it makes me feel sick to the stomach , 80k a year company car , surely someone needs to get this idiot out , people are burying there heads in the sand ,


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