Major equestrian organisations have hit back at a move by the health and safety authorities to force all children to wear face masks and rubber gloves while doing yard work or grooming.
“How is the next generation going to learn to be responsible horse owners if they can’t even get their hands dirty at a yard?” says the Pony Club’s executive secretary Harry Fouldyce.
“They are trying to ban hunting and now the fabric of all equestrian life is being threatened by this namby-pamby nanny stateism.”
Health and safety has lodged proposals to make it incumbent on all riding schools and Pony Club branches — through local authorities — to ensure children are protected from contracting stomach bugs or asthma when working around horses.
“Childhood asthma has increased three-fold in the last 10 years, and we want to ensure that children are protected against picking up bugs which can have long-term health implications,” says health and safety spokeswoman Lirap Ducek.
The BHS, ABRS, Pony Club and riding clubs plan to lobby health and safety to backtrack on the proposals, which could become enforceable by April 2005. Any local authority would have powers to enforce the regulations.
One riding school owner in Yorkshire says: “This is the thin end of the wedge. They’ve put the kibosh on local kids helping out; now they can’t even groom or pet the ponies without special gloves.
“There’s more danger from eating junk like stringy cheese snacks, than from skipping out the stables.”