The owner of a donkey whose entry to the Royal County of Berkshire Show was only accepted after a Facebook campaign believes attitudes are changing to “alternative” equines.
Joanne Parrett first asked organisers if she could take part in a driving class with Rikita Du Bocage two years ago and says she was refused permission as the 12.2hh mare’s presence could be a health and safety issue.
Having competed against horses and ponies at other events, including Royal Windsor this year, she tried again to enter the Berkshire show, which runs from 15 to 16 September, but was refused.
“We normally came near the bottom against the horses but to be able to compete was great,” Joanne told H&H.
“I then emailed Royal Windsor about entering and as soon as I said I was a British Driving Society member, they said ‘no problem’.
“At Windsor, the crowd was cheering us so much in the parade, it was unbelievable. ‘Riki’ loved it and started cantering; it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Even the other competitors were saying ‘doesn’t the crowd love your donkey?’”
The turnout enjoyed more success at the New Forest and Hampshire County Show in July, so Joanne was surprised when Royal County of Berkshire organisers told her her entries would not be allowed.
“They didn’t give me a reason, and I thought if we were good enough for Royal Windsor, surely we’re ok for Royal County of Berkshire too,” Joanne said.
“I was a bit miffed so I went on Facebook and had a bit of a whinge, but didn’t realise what would happen. A friend of mine who also has donkeys picked it up and moaned on the show’s Facebook, and there were loads of replies from people saying “Go Riki, go” and how she was fab at Windsor.
“About three-quarters of an hour later, I got an email from the show saying they looked forward to receiving my entries.”
Joanne, who describes 13-year-old Riki as an “absolute diva”, said she believes the publicity surrounding Wallace The Great, the first mule to compete in British Dressage competitions, may have helped her cause.
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“I think there’s realisation that other equines may be different but can still do the job, and why shouldn’t they?” she said. “I think people think they’re all little donkeys plodding about in fields, but we got to the supreme horse championship at the New Forest show and did a dressage display to music, against a Hackney stallion and a six-horse heavy horse team.
“I used Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 and the crowd was cheering – people couldn’t believe they were seeing this donkey in the main arena. It was a fantastic experience.
“We’ve broken the mould. I won’t get to the Horse of the Year Show or anything, that’ll never happen, but having these opportunities is fantastic.”
H&H has contacted Royal County of Berkshire organisers for comment.
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