ANIMAL rights activists could be behind an attempt to sabotage a show featuring performing horses, organisers fear.

Spirit Of The Horse is described as a theatre show which features attractions including Mongolian stunt riders, Spanish dancing horses and "dance, singers and hilarious equine antics."

The organisers of the extravaganza, which comes to York at the end of April, have been displaying posters advertising the show in shops and businesses in York and the surrounding area.

Free children's tickets have also been delivered to areas so that those who may not normally be able to afford to go and see the show can do so.

But two unknown women have been visiting those places which are displaying the posters and telling the proprietors that the show has been cancelled and the animals impounded by the RSPCA. But the organisers say nothing could be further from the truth.

Tony Wilkie-Millar, of Spirit Of The Horse, said: "This is an extremely malicious act. Obviously, the animal rights activists wish we weren't doing this performance."

Mr Wilkie-Millar said about 3,000 of the 4,000 posters the company has distributed have been taken down. York Police have been informed of the removal of the posters and a spokesman said they were investigating the issue.

Mr Wilkie-Millar said the welfare of the horses is the group's first priority. He said: "We have a very carefully laid down series of guidelines and instructions for all the people in our show - the riders and the trainers.

"They are prepared in consultation with Defra. The RSPCA have in the past inspected our animals and we have a vet on call in every town or city we go to and our animals are well cared for."

Nikki Fossett, a director of Spirit Of The Horse, added that at the end of every show the stables are opened and visitors can meet the horses, see where they are kept and talk to the riders and trainers about what they do. She said everyone is a professional and there is no way that any horse would be mistreated as they are far too valuable - they cost tens of thousands of pounds.

But York animal rights group, York Action For Animals (YAFA), intends to demonstrate against Spirit Of The Horse and is calling on City of York Council to ban all circuses which use animals from its property.

Spokesman Matt Gibbons, of Haxby, said his group believes using animals in this way is cruel.

He said: "I can't see how you can transport them around the country like they are doing. The horses must be constantly on lorries and that can't be good for any horse.

"The public should be made aware of what's going on so they can make an informed choice."

Mr Gibbons said he had no knowledge of any members of YAFA removing posters from shops. But he added: "I can fully understand why individuals would do such a thing."