PONY-painting parties are fast becoming a popular option for children’s events up and down the country, but campaigners have slammed the trend, saying the act of letting children scribble on horses is ‘borderline animal abuse.’

Forget face painting and bouncy castles, the latest trend to capture the imagination of thousands of eager-to-please parents around the country is that of pony painting.

Such a party involves letting youngsters paint horses and ponies with a chalk-based paint, covering them in hearts, stars and their own unique designs.

It is something, argue those holding the parties, that allows children to express themselves but for those against the idea, the practice of letting a child paint on an animal teaches them to ‘objectify and use’ them.

And now, an online petition against the practice has garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Sabrina Ross, from Fearns Equestrian Centre, Bacup, holds the parties and said letting the children paint the ponies has many benefits.

She said: “It’s all about education. There is this false idea that the children are smearing paint all over the ponies and that just isn’t the case, it’s been totally blown out of proportion.

“Children that come to us first have to learn to brush and clean the pony before they’re given a paintbrush.

“It’s fully supervised and educational, we ask them to paint on specific places on the horse’s body or spell their name out, for example.

“Once they are finished they have to learn how to clean up after themselves and brush the ponies clean again.”

She continued: “I can understand that people without a knowledge of horses might see some of the extreme images floating around in the media and think ‘that’s terrible’, but these people lack education about horses and ponies and are signing the petition without all of the facts.”

But 100,000 people disagree with Ms Ross, saying the trend is a ‘disturbing’ fad that needs to be nipped in the bud before it spirals out of control.

Sophie Tomlinson, from Altrincham, set up the change.org petition online, saying people up and down the country need to take a stand.

She said: “Imagine being tied up amid shrieking laughter, unpredictable touching and having strangers smear your hair in paint? Would you trade places?”

Ms Tomlinson’s petition follows a Facebook post by campaigner Joe Callister who publicly shared images of a pony-painting party, calling the event ‘disgusting, disrespectful and unjust.’

One person who signed the petition said that the events were ‘just wrong’ and that children needed to ‘learn how to respect animals, not abuse them’.

But Ms Ross said claims of animal abuse were wrong and not something she worried about.

She said: “There are a lot of bad cases of animal abuse up and down the country and these children are genuinely learning how to care for an animal.

“It is barbaric to say this is some form of abuse.

“To tar the practice of pony painting as ‘animal abuse’ is an incorrect and unjustified use of a very strong term,” Ms Ross added.