Snow, ice and frost are impacting on horsesport around the country, leaving hunts, businesses and riders already fearing a repeat of last winter’s cancellations and economic losses.
Hunts across the UK have been forced to cancel meets this week, with several going out on foot.
The Ledbury lost 14 days last season and had to cancel its meet on Monday (29 November) due to heavy frost.
“If any day is lost due to bad weather it is reflected in our revenue and dictates the rest of the season,” said secretary Helen Smith.
“We have to hope it’s not as bad as last year. The loyal subscribers will stay, but if the bad weather continues, we’re likely to lose out on those who cherry pick and buy day tickets.”
The Cottesmore, which lost 16 days last season, was also cancelling its 30 November meet as H&H went to press.
“The financial implications are frightening,” said secretary Clare Bell. “To have to cancel hunts as early as November is a real worry.”
Following 2ft of snow and a bad forecast the Ratcheugh Racing Club has abandoned its point-to-point fixture at Alnwick on 12 December, fearing the course could not be prepared in time.
Northern Racing Club’s Tony Hogarth described it as “extremely disappointing”.
“There will be a financial loss and it’s also frustrating for those who have been preparing horses for this early meeting,” he added.
Two British Showjumping events have been postponed — Moorhouse Equestrian Centre’s junior show (28 November) and Bishop Burton’s senior show (30 November).
“There’s heavy snow, people can’t get here,” said a Bishop Burton spokesman. “We’ll lose momentum, but it’s safer to reschedule.”
Racing was badly affected last year, with 53 meetings lost in December and January.
As H&H went to press on Monday, nine race meetings had been cancelled in the past week with this number looking set to rise.
Jockeys are already feeling the loss with cancelled meetings meaning less income.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) estimated that jockeys alone lost £500,000 in earnings during last season’s cold spell.
“Let’s pray this is not a repeat of last year,” tweeted jockey Mark Bradburne last week.
“The BHA is doing all it can to keep racing going through this prolonged cold period,” a spokesman told H&H.
“The transferral of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle from Newcastle to Newbury was a great success and we have since rearranged Southwell’s jump meeting [30 November] to an all-weather Flat card.
“While it has a negative impact on the Levy and the industry in general, everything is being done to host meetings where possible.”
Other losses include the Royal Wessex Yeomanry Ride, due to take place on Saturday (27 November) at Badminton, and the Melton Hunt Club ride on 28 November, which will now be held on 12 December.
This article was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound, 2 December ’10