Opinion

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It seems that, in this country, we are dictated to by the weather. The equestrian industry is no exception and it’s proving challenging, whatever the conditions.

Last year’s disastrous summer left us with a national shortage of hay. We’re having to buy small bales transported from several counties away until this year’s abundant crop is ready to feed. That in itself has proved costly and I know many people are in a similar position.

We’ve just had our personal run-in with the weather. It has been so dry for so long that the ground was like concrete. When flash floods hit Newport and we had a month’s worth of rain in 45 minutes, it didn’t soak in but just ran straight over the ground, causing severe flooding.

Our yard was fine, but our house was badly affected, and we’ve had to move into the horsebox during the lengthy drying-out process. Ironically, a friend further south had experienced such dry weather that their tanked yard-watering system ran dry.

The next day, we were all being sunburnt at Midland Counties. This heatwave has continued and while no one likes the rain, especially in excess, the flipside is that showing in sweltering conditions is so much harder.

We’re fortunate in that our wagon has air-conditioning fans and automatic waterers for the ponies — but even so, they were uncomfortable.

When the ponies are sweating a lot after exercise in these conditions, we use supplementary electrolytes to keep them hydrated at cellular level.

The same principles apply to children. Obviously, you need to ensure that they keep drinking water, but in these temperatures, asking children to go in the ring in thick woollen jackets is actually a health and safety issue. At Derbyshire Festival, the sensible announcement was made that children could ride without jackets as long as they still had their number on.

Dressing for the conditions

Riders, leaders, judges and stewards should also be allowed and encouraged to dress appropriately for the conditions.

A judge and a steward collapsed at Derbyshire Festival due to soaring temperatures. In these situations, common sense should prevail over etiquette.

Hard ground brings the dilemma of whether to run animals or choose venues with surfaces. If you qualified early, you can pick and choose your shows based on the conditions. This helps you to save and protect your animals for the long-term.

For those who are chasing those elusive tickets, we try and take ground conditions into account when choosing their next shows. Apart from the welfare issue, there is little point running animals at every show, risking their limbs showing wear and tear, and losing valuable conformation marks at the finals.

With the weather forecast showing no signs of things cooling down and the county show circuit in full swing, it will be interesting to see how professionals and amateurs alike plot their animals’ seasons to maintain soundness, keep them fresh and bright, and in the best possible condition. Good luck, everyone.

Ref Horse & Hound; 21 June 2018