Showing societies are adopting a tougher, clearer stance on disciplinary matters as they enter the New Year.

The British Show Pony Society (BSPS), National Pony Society (NPS) and British Skewbald and Piebald Association (BSPA) all plan to increase vigilance, clarity and introduce more “fair play” for members. All cite today’s “litigious” climate as a catalyst for action.

“This must be one of the most expensive hobbies you can have — it’s not just the ponies and the clothing, it’s the cost of diesel, vehicles and so on,” said Jim McTiffin, chairman of the BSPS, which is appointing 25 more stipendiary stewards to its existing 15 to police the society’s rules. “We must be seen to be doing the job properly; we want to be as clean as we can be.”

The “showing police” observe everything from members’ behaviour to quality of shows, including factors like ring size and vehicle access.

The NPS has expanded its rules for complaints and disciplinary procedures, adding options to its penalties menu and clarifying appeals and referrals procedures.

“We found the rules we had weren’t really meeting our requirements,” said executive secretary Lesley Wilkins.

NPS council member Sheila Brooks, who has updated the rules, added: “We want members to understand clearly how procedures go. Every complaint will be looked at — even if it’s that there’s not enough paper in the loo. We’re making it as clear and as fair as possible.”

While the NPS and BSPS have rules on welfare, the BSPA has not until now. But on 1 January, the BSPA introduced welfare rules — as well as tightening up on rule-breakers after recently taking disciplinary action against two members. It has also introduced a disciplinary committee and “menu” of disciplinary procedures.

“We’re not being draconian, but trying to protect members who comply by the rules,” said BSPA chairman Lynda Lodge. “We’ve made the rules explicit rather than implicit. We are fair and do give people the right to reply, but to say you don’t know the rules is unacceptable.”

The new BSPA disciplinary committee will also look at animal welfare cases.

“The new rules cover any aspects of ill-treatment, from beating a horse to using training aids we feel are unreasonable,” continued Lodge, adding: “We’re bringing ourselves in line with other societies.”

Ponies (UK) chairman Davina Whiteman said: “We’ve always had welfare rules, but we would applaud any other associations travelling that route.”

She also said within the Confederation of Breeds and Showing Societies, including Ponies (UK), BSPS and NPS, officials disciplined within one society would be disciplined among the others.

  • Read this news article in full in today’s Horse & Hound (5 January, ’05)

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