As Badminton Horse Trials announces that this year’s event has been forced to cancel, Horse & Hound magazine Editor Arnold Garvey has called for a total shutdown of all horse sport to help contain the continuing spread of foot and mouth.
The failure of Agriculture Minister Nick Brown to issue a firm ban on movement of all of Britain’s 800,000 domestic horses during the foot and mouth crisis, prompted the magazine to call for a total shutdown of racing and all equestrian sport for a month.
Although hunting, point-to-pointing and, until this week, racing, had been voluntarily suspended, some competitive equestrian sports, such as indoor show jumping and dressage, have continued across the UK.
With no government directive, the British Equestrian Federation can only “strongly urge” its member sports to cancel or postpone, not of all which are heeding this advice: some commercial horse show centres in the foot-and-mouth affected areas of Essex were still running shows as recently as Thursday this week (8 March).
Worse still, as the BEF has influence over barely half of the organised equestrian sport in this country, much of the large but low profile “unaffiliated sector” continues.
Arnold Garvey, Editor of Horse & Hound said today: “I remain astonished that Nick Brown has not had more “stick” for his woolly attitude to horse movement.
“Equestrianism should have been shut down immediately the first foot-and-mouth cases became known, but this lack of action by the minister does not absolve individual horse-owners from being responsible. Not only that, the minister failed to ban livestock auctions from day one.
“It grieves me to have to take such a stand against members of our own horse community – especially as equestrian sport is the lifeblood of this magazine – but there is no point in some riders confining their horses to their stable yards if others are cheerily travelling to shows or hacking around the countryside as if it is nothing to do with them!
“We mustget solidly behind our farming friends in their moment of crisis. If the government refuses to lead, then equestrianism and racing must follow the example of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
“The sooner we stop travelling our horses, the sooner we help stop this terrible disease, and the sooner we alleviate the damage to farming.”