Great Yorkshire Show sticks to its guns on rider weight despite ‘fat police’ comments

The Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) says it is determined to stick to its guns over rider weight despite comments over “fat police”, as nine people were asked to dismount this year.

GYS entries and livestock co-ordinator Amanda Stoddart-West told H&H there were no major issues on the first two days of the 2019 show, which ran from 9 to 11 July.

“But on the Thursday, nine people were asked to get off, which is disappointing,” she said.

“We make it really clear in the regulations, we send out a ‘read me’ stating it’s an important rule, we even put in the exhibitor pack that people need to make sure they’re an appropriate weight, so it becomes a bit frustrating that we still see it.”

Since the 2016 event, the GYS has stated that anyone riding a horse or pony anywhere on the showground should be of an appropriate weight for the animal. Anyone deemed by the veterinary team to be of a size or weight that “compromises the welfare of the horse/pony being ridden”, with the 20% rider to horse weight ratio as a guide, could be asked to dismount.

Ms Stoddart-West said there were “one or two people we kept an eye on” for the first two days, but Thursday, on which most of the ridden pony classes are held, was when the real issues were seen, mostly concerning adults working children’s ponies in.

“Someone actually walked into reception and said: ‘You’re the fat police, aren’t you?’ What do you say to that?” Ms Stoddart-West said. “She said she thought what we’re doing is great but the minute people see us or the vet, they text each other to say: ‘The fat police are coming’.

“But it’s nothing to do with being fat. We want everyone to ride, but on the right horse or pony, it’s nothing to do with their weight in itself.

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“Surely by now, they realise they can’t get away with it at this show, so why do they still do it?”

Ms Stoddart-West said some of those asked to dismount argued their case; others saying, incorrectly, that GYS is the only show to take a stand on rider weight.

“We won’t be deterred; we will keep going,” she added.

“I heard someone say we’d gone PC mad but it’s got nothing to do with that. I hope people will start changing – but change is a long process.”

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