Animal welfare organisations are preparing for the start of this year’s Appleby Horse Fair.
The historic event begins tomorrow (8 June) and runs until Monday (12 June).
RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said they will be using exhaustion tests — originally designed for endurace horses — on equines inspectors are concerned about.
“Every year we learn lessons to take into the next,” said Inspector Melloy.
“Last year the number of horses being worked to exhaustion was a big issue.
“Working an equine repeatedly over several days, even though he may appear to have recovered, has a cumulative effect.
“We often see different people with the same animal who may not be aware of how much work it has done that day or on previous days at the fair.
“We’ll be using exhaustion tests on horses we’re concerned about, which were developed to be used on horses ridden in endurance events.
Inspector Melloy said a man from Essex was jailed as it was found he had been working an “exhausted” horse at last year’s fair.
“I’m urging people to be vigilant and report anything that concerns them,” he added. “We often get calls after the fair but very few during.
“Fair-goers can approach our officers — or those from the other horse charities attending — on the ground or they can call us on 0300 1234999.”
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A ramp into the River Eden, which is used for washing horses, was shut yesterday due to high water levels following heavy rain.
It has now reopened and organisers are warning people that they enter the water at their own risk.
Rainfall is continuing to be monitored and updates will be given if levels increase beyond 0.5m.
Seven equine organisations will be represented, including the British Horse Society and 33 officers from the RSPCA.
The Blue Cross is sending seven people, four will be there for Bransby Horses, plus a vet and two welfare advisors from the Donkey Sanctuary are attending.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary will have three vets, two senior field officers and an education and campaigns manager on site, with four field officers and a welfare support officer from World Horse Welfare.
There will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought. It will be staffed on Friday-Sunday between 10am-4pm.
There will also be an information and education tent where people can share knowledge and discuss horse care.
A “best in show” competition will be running online and on the ground throughout the event, where owners can share pictures of their horses under the hashtag #BestatAppleby2017. The winners will be chosen by vets.
The RSPCA is also urging people not to leave dogs in vehicles at the fair.
“Every year we remind people, and almost every year we have an incident to deal with,” said Inspector Melloy.
“It does not have to be glorious sunshine for dogs to be at risk. We’ll be working with Cumbria Constabulary on a zero tolerance approach to this and where dogs are considered to be in danger they will be removed by any means necessary.”
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