FMD crisis: West Country horseowners struggle on

  • Recent national publicity has ensured the future of Kevin Lamacraft’s hunter hirelings at Knowle Farm, Timberscombe on Exmoor.

    Earlier this week he admitted that due to lack of incomesince February’s initial FMD outbreak he would be forced to shoot some of his hunters.

    However, public support has resulted in the re-homing of his stallion, Geoffrey, and grass keep for the other 24 hirelings.

    However, others with equestrianbusinesses surrounding the area around Porlock are still struggling.

    Julian and Marion Dascombe, tenants of the National Trust’s Holnicote estate face a bleak financial year from their trekking business at Burrowhayes Farm, West Luccombe, Somerset.

    They run a run a camping site and riding stables offering moor land rides www.burrowhayes.co.uk. Turnover for April and May last year was £20,00 and £30,000, respectively.

    Easter trade was down 80% and Mrs Dascombe admitted there would be no riding available until Exmoor opens to the public.

    “No paths are open, so we can’t offer any rides, which means no income,” explained Mrs Dascombe. “Some of our 18 trekkers are having to come back from their winter keep. We are starting to get a few fit in case the moor is opened, so we are ready for business, but it all costs money with the staff and shoeing.

    “Our business is structured so that mainly families come and camp here; the children ride and the parents walk on the moor. As a result, we have been badly hit and cannot offer anything until foot and mouth is eradicated.

    “We are all from farming stock so perfectly understand the farmers concerns about spreading the disease, but if our businesses are losing out for farming’s sake, surely we should be offered some compensation? And, if the situation continues all summer, I am worried for the horses futures – but I hope it never comes to that.”Kim Youd and his wife Helen are slightly morefortunate. They run Porlock Vale House Hotel and Riding Centre www.porlockvale.co.uk.

    Although March trade was down 40% and Easter 20%, they are benefiting from visitors spending the weekend at the hotel and using its riding facilities.

    The 24-horse yard offers two indoor schools and its own cross-country course.

    “We are doing reasonably compared to others in the area,” admitted Mr Youd. “Visitors are prepared to visit the area for weekends, butare not booking week-long holidays. We are more worried about the summer and autumn when we do a lot of trade. At the moment cancellations may have stopped but we are certainly not seeing any bookings for the next few months.”

    Access to woodland adjoining the hotel has allowed the Youds to offer clients hour-and-a-half long rides, including canters. Other businesses are looking at similar opportunities to stem the financial tide. Periton Park, a riding stable near Minehead, is hoping the Crown Estate will allow access to some nearby forestry for riding.

    At the same time, Mark Williams who also has a trekking stable in the area is considering setting up tracks on his own farm.

    This could ensure clients from Butlins, who usually enjoy his facilities, continue to have the opportunity to ride when visiting the holiday camp.

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