Great Yorkshire Show: rider weight debate continues as several asked to dismount

  • The Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) continued to implement its strict rider weight policy this year as a total of 13 riders were asked to dismount from their ponies during the three-day show at Harrogate show ground (10-12 July).

    Amanda Stoddart-West, livestock and entries co-ordinator, said the first couple of days were an improvement on the previous year, with only one rider being asked to dismount each day.

    On the third day — which hosts the majority of the ridden pony classes —  a total of 11 riders were pulled up in the working-in arenas. No one was asked to dismount in the ring.

    “The society has been pleased with what it’s seen this year with regards to riders on suitably sized ponies,” said Amanda. “However, Thursday did provide more cases due to the fact it is children’s pony day.

    “The decision to ask someone to dismount is always made by a professional vet who then gives the rider the option to be weighed, which is done with the saddle. This year the GYS society has also invested in its own set of horse scales so the equine can be weighed — this is all about ensuring every rider is riding the right horse.”

    Amanda added: “The the whole process is done as discreetly as possible. Our main concern is that animal welfare is our main priority.

    “We have found a lot people complain about our system but decline the offer of being weighed when asked. Only one person out of the 13 went to be weighed and actually measured in. We have received a mixed reaction from the showing community but will continue to keep enforcing our rider weight policy in the future.”

    Native pony specialist and H&H columnist Rebecca Penny — who has ridden small breeds for many years at all the major championships — was one of those asked to dismount during the warm-up on the second day of competition.

    Rebecca was riding a Dartmoor pony and was pulled over by an official who said she looked too big for the pony.

    “I was quite shocked at how it was done. The gentleman told me that I was over 20 per cent of the pony’s weight, after watching me ride it round. He had already made that presumption, without any sort of proof,” said Rebecca, who didn’t take the pony in the ring but watched it qualify for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) with another jockey, following the incident.

    “I was offered the chance to be weighed but they didn’t weigh the pony. I do not believe it is possible to make a visual judgement of such a thing, and it is also impossible to know without weighing the pony.

    “We have our ponies weighed at home and I know I am within the limits — it is too subjective, and there were several riders who looked bigger than me who actually made it into the small breeds classes. Some competitors have stopped bringing their small breed ponies in fear of the same happening to them.”

    Rebecca believes she was told there was no way of weighing the pony, but GYS vet Julian Rishworth, the official who spoke to her, said it is possible she may have misunderstood what was being said, as weighing facilities were available.

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    “It feels like people are getting singled out and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it,” Rebecca added. “I also noticed the large breeds breeds aren’t even taken into consideration.”

    Mr Rishworth said: “Every rider was offered the chance to have themselves and the pony weighed. It is possible there has been some confusion or that she misheard what was told.”

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