Davina Whiteman has been re-elected as chairman of the troubled showing society Ponies (UK) only weeks after stepping down from the day-to-day running of the organisation. Meanwhile, another board member has resigned.

Mrs Whiteman told Horse & Hound she was “disappointed” by Jon Phillips’s decision to step down after three years with P(UK), but was “very excited” about the four new board members who joined the organisation at the AGM on 19 November. They include Tracy Hullat, who takes over Mrs Whiteman’s former role of chief operations officer, and new vice-chairman Pat Campbell.

“Our new members are very experienced,” said Mrs Whiteman, “and they will be taking a broader look at the company. We have lots of exciting plans for the years ahead.”

But Mr Phillips, who was re-elected at the AGM prior to standing down, told H&H he felt “trapped” at P(UK) and believed he was no longer able to represent the best interests of the organisation’s members.

He added: “I wish P(UK) the very best for the future, but I believe that unless some very severe measures are taken to facilitate a true members’ association with transparent board and executive reporting, the future that I and a few others fought so hard to establish is in danger. I’m very disappointed that it has come to this.”

Mr Phillips added that he was “bitterly opposed” to the growing costs of belonging to the society. Adult membership, which is held by approximately 2,500 individuals, has risen from £35 a year ago to £50. Mr Phillips said that a family with two children and a couple of ponies could easily spend £200 on membership fees.

Mrs Whiteman told H&H that this year, for the first time, membership levels had not grown. However, she stressed that this was common to all show societies and not just P(UK).

But the organisation has endured a difficult year. Infighting and calls for Mrs Whiteman’s resignation came to a head in August after the clapometer — devised by Mrs Whiteman — was widely derided when introduced at the Summer Championships.

Mrs Whiteman, who has been at the helm of P(UK) since 1989 and is an honorary life member, then stepped down from the day-to-day running of the organisation after rumours of financial difficulties.

Events manager Betsy Branyan resigned shortly before the AGM. But despite these changes to the board, Mrs Whiteman said she believes members will reap rewards in the year ahead.
She explained: “A lot of the hard work we’ve put in over the years finally looks to be coming to fruition.”

  • Read this news story in full in today’s Horse & Hound (21 December, ’06)