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Goats take on clear round jumping in fight to beat grass sickness

It’s clear round, Jim, but not as we know it.

Goats, cats and dogs, not to mention an Oompah-Loompah with Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, have been showing their turn of hoof (or paw) on a course of jumps.

Yvonne Maclean has raised some £47,000 for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund during the past six years, since her own horse Malbec recovered from the disease, but her plans to increase the total this year have been scuppered by the coronavirus.

“In 2014, my five-year-old took sick with grass sickness,” Yvonne told H&H. “He had 14 weeks of nursing and he got through it but it was a long struggle, and it nearly cost me my marriage.

“We came out the other side and the next year, I decided to run a show to raise money, but have it like a gymkhana, so it was all about having fun. We made about £5,700 and it’s gone from there.

“This year, though, fundraising has come to a standstill.”

Yvonne set up a Facebook group for fundraising for the charity, and came up with the idea of “clear round to pound grass sickness”. Everyone who takes part donates to the fundraising page if they can, and nominates five others to have a go.

“I did it first with my goats – and it was absolute carnage,” she said. “I’ve got about 20; I breed pygmy goats and have some bigger rescued ones and they’re always running around the garden anyway so I just put some ‘jumps’ up, and of course they didn’t do what they were told, it was mad!”

Yvonne said as the challenge was started when riders in England were still being advised not to ride, as is still the case in other home nations, she did not want to encourage people to jump horses.

“People have done it with dogs and cats,” she said. “My husband did it in a horse costume, with the dog, and nominated five people who have got kids, and the feedback from them was unbelievable.

“One had a four- or five-year-old girl who spent all day making and painting her cardboard box jumps, then did it in her little Horse of the Year Show jumper, a lad from Inverness did it with his kids dressed up as Woody and Jessie, and he was an Oompa-Loompa, and he said they were excited about it all day.”

Yvonne said her motivation to raise funds was sparked not only by her horrific experience of grass sickness, but also that she felt very alone as no one she knew had had to deal with it. She wants to raise awareness of as well as money for the fight against the disease.

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“There are 6,600 people on the grass sickness awareness Facebook group; if they all gave the equivalent of £1 a month, that would fund a researcher for a year,” she said.

“I know not everyone can donate at the moment but please, do the challenge anyway as you’re still raising awareness, and if you nominate other people, they might be able to donate. And if those videos don’t bring a smile to your face, nothing will.”

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