Showjumper fined €11,000 for deceiving family when selling ponies

Michael Kearins sent inferior ‘dead ringer’ when one of the animals agreed on could not be sold

A showjumper broke a young girl’s heart and put an innocent child at risk when he sent her family a pony inferior to the one they had agreed to buy from him, a court has heard.

Michael Kearins (36), of Knockbeg, Collooney, Co Sligo, was convicted of deception in April by majority jury verdict at Sligo Circuit Court. He was fined €11,000 and given 30 months to pay on Thursday by Judge Francis Comerford. He had pleaded not guilty to the offence.

The judge said one of the most unpleasant aspects of the case was Kearins’ claim, which he now accepts was untrue, that the complainant’s wife agreed to accept a different pony to the one her husband had agreed to buy.

The trial heard that Kearins agreed to sell two ponies, Teddy and Bud, to Donegal-born businessman Seán Ewing. However, when Buddy was no longer available for sale, Kearins found a “dead ringer” called Spot, an inferior pony, who was delivered to the Ewing’s in Majorca.


The Ewing contacted Kearins in the summer of 2012 during a visit to Ireland and wanted to buy two ponies for their daughters. After seeing Teddy and Buddy three times, and testing them out, they agreed to purchase the animals.

Patrick O’Sullivan BL, for Kearins, told Judge Comerford that his client fully accepted the verdict and that Terry Ewing was at no time willing to accept “any horse sight unseen” as he had claimed during the trial.

‘Small change’

Mr O’Sullivan said given Mr Ewing’s “immense wealth”, the financial loss he suffered, estimated by the court at around €20,000, was “like small change to the rest of us ”. Kearins provided €17,000 in compensation to the court last week and paid in a further €3,000 on Thursday.

Neither Mr or Mrs Ewing was in court for the sentencing hearing but in a victim impact statement, Mrs Ewing said Kearins had lied to the court and the nation. She said this was “in an attempt to portray me as a manipulative and disloyal liar who had connived with him behind my husband’s back to send a considerably inferior and dangerous pony for our daughter to ride”.

Mrs Ewing said Kearins had broken a young girl’s heart and that her daughter continues to feel a sense of loss and sadness over what might have been “and now no longer rides”.


In his victim impact statement, Mr Ewing said he would never forget the dismay of his wife and the devastation of his daughters on the day the “switched pony” arrived in Majorca. The fact that this pony could hardly walk only supported the level of deceit that the accused was prepared to go to “in extorting me and my family” regardless of the “potential danger” to his children, he said.

Mr O’Sullivan said Kearins’ actions were not premeditated and he accepted in hindsight that he should not have sent the other pony. He said Kearins was still in possession of Teddy and Spot and wanted to donate them to a charity for children with disabilities.

Judge Comerford said Kearins was entitled to some credit for providing €20,000 in compensation and noted that he had no previous convictions as he fined him €11,000 and gave him 30 months to pay.

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland