Trading Standards in Cumbria are investigating complaints surrounding the Gypsy Cob Society (GCS) Ltd.

The GCS registered as a Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) in 2003 and had 7,141 passports entered on the National Equine Database.

But on 4 May, the company was dissolved by director Craig Thompson, who on 15 June set up the Gypsy Cob Society (2010) Limited in its place.

On Monday (25 October), Defra announced that the GCS’s status as a PIO had lapsed “after the company ceased to exist”.

But horse owners applying for new passports or changes to existing documentation are angry that the society didn’t own up to its problems earlier.

“I sent my new horse’s passport to them two weeks ago, I even spoke to someone on the phone about how much the change [of ownership] would cost!” wrote one member of the H&H forum on 8 October.

Though the original company was registered to Mr Thompson’s address of Home Farm, Hockley Heath, Solihull B24 5DA, its www.gypsycobsociety.org lists Chywoon Stud in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, as the contact address.

Stud owner Carol Smettem-Minson says she was a director and secretary of the GCS, and told H&H she was unaware of the changes Craig Thompson was making until mid August.

Mrs Smettem-Minson said she set up the GCS in 2001 with her husband David and two colleagues who later returned to America.

She said she was approached in 2006 by Craig Thompson — who also runs Henley-in-Arden and Foscote horse sales.

“He wanted to become part of the society as it would be handy if he could do passports at his auctions,” she told H&H.

“I thought it was a good idea because it would take the burden of passport-issuing off me.”

But official UK business register Companies House has no record of any director of the original company other than Mr Thompson.

Defra has said passports the GCS issued before 25 October “remain valid” and that the Lipizzaner National Studbook Association of Great Britain has been nominated to maintain existing GCS passports.

  • To contact Lipizzaner National Studbook Association of Great Britain email: info@lipizzanerhorse.com or call 01570 480090

A Defra spokesman told H&H it was “working with the society [GCS]” on its PIO application.

Mrs Smettem-Minson said she had reapplied for PIO status immediately on learning of the problem in August and that she had a meeting with Defra on Tuesday this week (26 October).

She also claimed to have registered herself as a director, changed the company name back to the Gypsy Cob Society Ltd and its address from 4 Mansell Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwicks CV37 9NR — also the registered offices of Guard D’oyly accountants — to her own at Chywoon Stud.

None of these changes is currently registered with Companies House.

Craig Thompson told H&H: “We have temporarily lost our PIO statues because of a clerical error. We changed the company name — it was just a change we made.”

He added that he has never issued passports on the day of sale at any of his auctions.

Trading Standards confirmed to H&H it is working with Defra.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (28 October ’10)