The 2019 Leicestershire County Show is at risk as more than 80 horses have been dumped on the showground.
Organisers have already had to cancel a number of planned events on the site since the equines were found there some four weeks ago.
Despite the efforts of the Leicestershire Agricultural Society, the horses were still there on Monday night (15 October), when vandals broke into the showground and destroyed 40m of perimeter fencing, allowing the ponies to escape on to the road.
James Webb, a director of the society, told H&H the fencing was 6’ chain link with metal posts, and he is unsure how the vandals managed to break it – or how the horses came to be on the showground.
“It must be 10 lorry loads of horses or something,” he said. “Where did they all suddenly come from?
“We contained them in the car park, which is 15 acres, but they’ve been breaking the fences into the main showground, as that’s another 60 acres of grass.”
Mr Webb said he has been in contact with police, as well as the county council, which has been “brilliant”, but he is concerned about the impact the horses have already had.
“If you imagine 80 horses on 15 acres for four weeks; there’s no grass left and a lot of piles of poo,” he said. “Horses make the ground go sour, and we can’t have the showjumping ring like that.
“We’ve already had a booked Halloween event that’s had to go elsewhere, and someone was about to sign for a winter wonderland Christmas fair. It’s all revenue we’ve lost, which would all have gone back into putting the show on, and will those people come back?
“The grounds going to need harrowing and sorting out, the fencing could cost £10,000 to £20,000 – when the whole perimeter was done about five years ago, it cost £250,000 – we can’t afford that.”
Mr Webb said that under the Control of Horses Act, the society could post enforcement notices and then take possession of the horses, “but then what would we do with them?”
“I’m guessing they don’t have passports, and if they all went to market, unless there were 80 people who wanted them, there’s only one place they’d end up, and it’s not fair on them,” he said.
The society posted about the situation on Facebook this week, warning that the 2019 county show would be cancelled if the horses are still in situ.
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“We’ve had lots of support and people saying ‘please don’t cancel it’, but if they’re still there come spring, we won’t be able to get the ground right,” Mr Webb said.
“I look after the livestock and you have to have six to eight weeks animal-free just to have cattle and sheep on it for two days.
“We need to make a lot of noise and see what support we can get.”
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