The historic Appleby Fair in Cumbria, which starts tomorrow (5 June), should be safer for horses and humans this year, after a joint campaign by Eden District Council, Cumbria Constabulary and the RSPCA.

Local RSPCA officer Kevin Hegarty explains: “A major cause for concern was the use of the main road adjacent to the sale ring for ‘flashing’ or showing off the horses, usually at a gallop.

“Not only were horses sometimes put at risk, but it was also dangerous for spectators and traffic, so, using an idea borrowed from Irish horse fairs, Jim Winter, the landlord, has built a flashing track in the field itself.

“We consulted extensively with the travellers who sell horses at the fair and we are confident that they will use it.”

The track is 130m long by 3m wide and sand will be available to increase grip on its tarmac surface. Spectators will be able to view the track from the roadside without obstructing the road.

Visitors to the fair flock to the River Eden to view the horses being washed off, and work has also been done to reduce the risk of animals injuring themselves on the steep concrete slope down to the river and on rocks on the riverbed itself.

“Co-operation between the police, the council and ourselves has been extremely productive,” says Kevin, “and we believe that we have been able to communicate to the travellers that our priority is to improve their horses’ welfare.”

Appleby Fair was established by a royal charter in 1685 and attracts up to 5,000 traders and 30,000 visitors per year. It has only been cancelled twicein its history – in 1750, due to the plague, and in 2001, at the height of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (5 June 2003), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week at a reduced rate of 30%.