The county show hit headlines in 2016 when it stated that anyone who weighed over 20% of their mount’s weight would be asked to dismount, with scales on hand in case the point needed to be proven.
Eight people were asked to dismount that first year but during the 2021 event (13–16 July) the scales – charged up in readiness – did not have to be used.
“That really is progress,” GYS livestock and entries co-ordinator Amanda Stoddart-West told H&H.
“I think people have just accepted it now. Unfortunately, it probably still goes on elsewhere, but here, people know it’s monitored and they can’t do it.”
Mrs Stoddart-West explained the issue was first raised by vets in a committee meeting in 2015, and the 20% maximum was set based on the most up-to-date scientific research into the effects of rider weight.
She added: “It’s been very rewarding to see real progress, with these changes now largely accepted by our exhibitors. We may have missed a few but most understand the reason for these rules and are happy to abide by them. We all knew this change would take some time to be accepted but we are now seeing a real difference.”
Mrs Stoddart-West said the show had had a lot of support this year for its enhancing of the rules; announcing that only the child entered, or another rider who would have been eligible for that class, could ride the pony concerned, anywhere on site (news, 6 May).
“The original concerns were raised by two of our vets regarding a coloured horse, so it wasn’t purely about ponies, although latterly we were seeing more and more adults riding in children’s ponies before their classes, hence the reason for the rule enhancement,” she said. “We all have a duty to protect horse welfare.
“It was heartening that during this year’s show, exhibitors and even tradestand holders were helping to see the rule was upheld. This has to be good news for the animals, and many warmly welcomed a level playing field. Hopefully, more shows will soon follow suit so this becomes the norm.”
Mrs Stoddart-West said it was hard to tell if the new rule affected entries; these were down slightly, but across the board, which may have been owing to Covid.
“Change takes time but people do seem to be accepting it now,” she said. “If every show took it on board, I think we’d see a major difference. A lot of people are resistant to changing how they’ve always done something, but we can’t stay as we were 50 years ago; nothing stands still and we hope we’re improving things for all horses and ponies while making things fairer for everyone.”
GYS vet Julian Rishworth told H&H when the rule was first introduced that one rider asked to dismount said, “What am I supposed to do, put a child on and have an accident?”
“But if the pony’s not suitable for a child, should it be shown as a child’s pony?” he asked.
He added this week: “I was so pleased to see ponies being worked in by children, or being lunged, and that they still gave their best in the show ring.”
World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H: “The Great Yorkshire Show was brave to be the first to introduce these guidelines, and five years on the benefits are being seen.
“This is not about rider weight as such but ensuring that riders are appropriately matched to their mounts, and the show’s pioneering approach has done much to raise awareness of this sensitive but important welfare issue, and paved the way for other show organisers to issue similar guidelines which should also be applauded.”
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