A mother who confronted a group of men taking their horses for a dip in the Serpentine lido has spoken of her shock and upset at their ‘cruel’ behaviour, which left her 11-year-old daughter ‘broken’ and in tears.
The 39-year-old woman, who asked only to be named as Rebecca, stepped up to intervene as the men rode their animals into the central lake in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday.
Footage taken by an onlooker showed her squaring up to the group, who are believed to be travellers, as they claimed to be cooling off the animals in the water.
As a row rumbled on for several minutes, Rebecca was seen on camera shouting: ‘You don’t get to tell me to shut up.’
Police were called as tensions escalated and Rebecca tonight told MailOnline how she and her daughter were left shaken by the ‘terrifying’ ordeal and that she felt taking horses into the water risked endangering children swimming in there and the animals themselves.
‘They were acting like big baddies in a pantomime wrestling show,’ she said.
‘They rode in on bareback horses with such bravado, as if with the intention of making a spectacle.
‘It was so incredible. If it wasn’t caught on video, no one would probably believe us.
‘I know travellers have deep connection with horses, and they kept saying that it was their culture and we were being racist, and that we were ruining it for them by asking for them to get out of the pool.
‘But is it in their culture to endanger children or abuse animals? I was just worried about my daughter and all the other young children in the water.’
The 39-year-old woman, who asked only to be named as Rebecca, stepped up to intervene as the men rode their animals into the central lake in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday
One of the men struggles to stay on the horse, which he rode into the water, much to the shock of onlookers
Rebecca described seeing one of the horses almost completely submerged underwater
She claimed that the group, which included as many as 12 people altogether, were drunk and becoming increasingly aggressive, making a series of gestures and comments towards her and other onlookers.
The ordeal lasted around 30 minutes, before police finally arrived on the scene and began breaking up the chaos.
‘At one point one of the horses started to buckle and slip, and these men just started hitting and kicking it, said Rebecca, a women’s fitness specialist from south London.
‘You could also see one of the horse’s heads being submerged under the water. I felt like a caged animal watching this man be that cruel.
‘I tried to tell my daughter that we’d talk about it at home but she was absolutely broken by it. Horses are her favourite animal. I’ve only seen her cry like that when her rabbit died.
‘I’m a massive animal lover and animal rights activist as well. It was upsetting on so many levels.’
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said officers were called at 4.36pm when sunseekers’ swimming sessions were abruptly cut short.
Comments underneath a social media post sharing the video suggest the animals may have been brought to the water before they were raced along the embankment cycle lane.
Police officers were called to Hyde Park on Saturday to reports of ponies in the popular swimming spot
Footage taken by an onlooker showed a mother squaring up to a group of men as the horses cooled off amid high temperatures
One read: ‘Just watering their horses before charging down the embankment cycle lane. I saw them at tower hill breaking the 20 mph limit. Luckily as usual hardly any bikes about.’
One mother wanted the men to get out of the water immediately. She told another group of men standing at the water’s edge: ‘I will not go away. I don’t have to shut up, you don’t get to tell me to shut up. Get them out of the water.’
It is unclear what the men said to her.
Police revealed no arrests were made, adding: ‘Police were called around 16:36 hrs on Saturday, 5 June to reports of horses in the Serpentine, Hyde Park.
‘Officers attended and advised the horse riders that it was an offence to have animals in the Serpentine. They got out of the water and left the area.’
Twitter users had reported seeing traveller horses and pony traps elsewhere in the capital on Saturday afternoon, including around 15 to 20 at 2.30pm at Bishopsgate and one at Borough High Street.
Temperatures on Saturday soared to 77F (25C) as families headed out to the beach or London’s parks to enjoy the sun.
People lie down on the grass at Wimbledon Common, in London, as hot weather hit the capital on Saturday
It is not known if the men were part of the same group that police had to evict from Ravenscourt Park in west London last week.
At 7pm on Thursday night around 12 caravans and cars parked in Ravenscourt Park – just three days after they were forced out of Kew Green, which is just 3.7miles away, on Tuesday.
Jim, a member of the travelling community at the park, claimed they had to move from the wealthy area after people broke into their homes and others were victims of racist abuse.
On Wednesday, legal representatives from Richmond Council said it had been granted a three-month order banning travellers from returning to the Kew site.
Metropolitan Police officers have been called to Ravenscourt Park, where an eviction notice has been served. It is believed the caravans could be moved on within hours.
It is not known if the men were part of the same group that police had to evict from Ravenscourt Park in west London last week
A group of travellers moved into Ravenscourt Park in West London, having been previously moved out of Kew and Windsor in recent days
Police were at the scene in Ravenscourt Park observing what was happening with a van equipped with CCTV
A neighbourhood enforcement van was deployed after officers received complaints about the travellers in the park
More than a dozen caravans pulled up in Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith, west London on Thursday evening
A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We’ve worked closely with the Met Police and a notice has been served to require the owners of the vehicles to leave the park immediately.’
Photographs showed cars towing caravans into the park after members of the group broke into a gate that closed the area off to traffic.
Around a dozen vehicles were photographed parked in rows on the grass at the popular leafy park in west London, where the average house is worth £1.05million.
Jim, one of those parked up in Ravenscourt Park, said he did not know where to take his family next after the group were moved on from three sites in 24 hours.
He said: ‘We just arrived last night from Kew and they’ve already used a section 61 on us to move on. They’re abusing us pretty badly because they keep using it on us and moving us on. We’ve been moved three times in 24 hours, once at one in the morning and then at 10am the next day.’
He claimed people tried to break into their caravans, before the group chased them away. ‘Then when the police arrived they blamed us, as always, which I think is disgusting,’ he added.
Rubbish left behind after a group of travellers spent the bank holiday weekend on Kew Green in west London
‘When you have six kids and you don’t even have time to feed them, because by the time you’ve cooked a meal you’ve got to leave again.
‘Some of the lads here have real mental health issues because of this – some have even thought about committing suicide. I don’t know where we’re going to go next, so I’m just going to get in my car and get on the motorway.’
He said he ‘felt like crying’ after the group were moved on from Kew Green, because he didn’t know where to go.
‘I’m going to have to look at my wife and tell her I don’t know where we’re going, which doesn’t make you feel like much of a man, does it?
‘Yesterday I sat down and felt like crying, because I’m sat in a trailer with my wife and kids, and they can’t go out.
‘If they go to the play park over there, they get called names and insulted by the other kids, so I don’t let them go out. It was good here, because we have public toilets and we’ve kept the police clean. Any rubbish you see was there when we arrived.’
A Richmond Council spokesman previously said there was no damage to Kew Green after the group were forced to leave. Piles of rubbish which had been left behind were removed by officials.
Photographs, taken before the group moved, showed a group of men gathering to drink beers. Others were seen hacking away at a large oak tree with two machetes as they appeared to build a swing.
Tips to Find Low Priced Luxury Holiday Package Deals Fast