A call for guidelines on suitable weight limits for showing riders who compete on small ponies received overwhelming support at The Showing Register’s (TSR) “Future of Showing” debate at Stoneleigh on Sunday (21 February).

Currently, a rider’s age dictates the size of plaited ponies they can partner, and there are no restrictions in native ranks, where small breeds such as Welsh section A and Dartmoor are often ridden by adults.

A statement from World Horse Welfare expressing general concern about overweight riders prompted debate organiser Gail Chapman to include the subject.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’ showing will have to regulate itself on this issue but ‘when’, so now is the time to talk about it,” she said.

“The welfare of the animals must always be at the forefront of any decision.

“There is a belief that rider weight isn’t an issue for small natives because traditionally, they carried farmers on the mountains. But as some people have pointed out, this was off the bridle in a straight line — as opposed to modern schooling methods, which place entirely different stresses on these ponies.”

The subject had already prompted considerable response on the TSR website.

“As soon as it went live, we knew we had a scorching hot topic,” added Gail. “We’ve had more than 120 comments both for and against the need for regulation.”

After lively debate from the floor, the practicality — and possible health and safety repercussions — of implementing and policing set weight limits was rejected as unworkable, and the vote advising society-issued guidelines instead was carried unanimously.

Tony Tyler, of World Horse Welfare, will take the TSR’s findings to the National Equine Forum in London (3 March).

“The issue of rider weight is currently attracting considerable interest across the entire equine community,” he said. “Riders must be aware of the limits of their animal’s weight-carrying capability.”


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Debate panel member Sandy Anderson, head of Horse of the Year Show organiser Grandstand Media, has bred Welsh section A ponies for many years.

“I breed ponies for children to ride and my personal view is that I don’t like to see adults on them,” he said.

“It’s up to the societies to decide their policies but from a showing point of view, it’s all about the overall picture and the judge has the power to demote any inappropriate combinations.”

Ref: H&H: 25/02/16