Horse world counts the cost of the cold snap

  • First riders showed resourcefulness during weeks of snow, then resignation as the ground thawed to oozing mud. And some sports are left counting the cost of the dramatic conditions.

    Five point-to-points have so far been postponed and three abandoned — the Point-to-Point Owners’ and Riders’ Club’s Barbury Castle meeting, North Norfolk and the Dunston Harriers.

    “Cancellation means a great loss of revenue to the hunt,” said Dunston Harriers senior master Nigel Trevithick. “It’s disappointing, but we have to put safety first.”

    He said many meetings might have trouble with the thaw. “The ground is hock-deep now,” he added.

    Racing hit across UK

    Jump racing returned to action on Saturday (16 January) for the first time since 3 January, having lost 53 meetings since 14 December. The British Horse Racing Authority estimates that jockeys alone suffered around £500,000 in lost earnings.

    All-weather surfaces have been a saving grace for the sport — on Wednesday last week (13 January) Southwell racecourse made history by hosting the country’s first all-weather flat racecard solely for jumps horses.

    The Polytrack gallops at Newmarket and Lambourn have been kept open largely thanks to the efforts of staff working round the clock to keep them sifted.

    With the gallops at Greystoke Park, Cumbria, under a blanket of snow last week, trainer Nicky Richards shipped eight of his horses to Newmarket.

    “I can’t canter big injury-prone horses on frozen snow, so Newmarket was a much better option,” he said.

    Horses lose fitness

    British Showjumping (BS) says more than 100 shows have suffered commercial losses.

    “Many horses are not being kept competition fit, too, so despite the thaw it could be a while before competitor numbers are back up,” said a BS spokesman.

    Many riders, including show producer Robert Walker, got through the deep freeze by boxing horses to indoor schools. “It’s a chore but they’re ticking over,” he said.

    The first British Eventing Jumping and Style competition of the season, due to take place on 17 January at Merrist Wood, fell victim to the snow.

    But many eventers who would usually have started their horses on roadwork before this week have remained relaxed. Cheshire-based Polly Stockton has moved her top horses to show jumper Robert Bevis’s Wrexham yard, which has an indoor school.

    Lucy Wiegersma from Devon said: “We’ve been driving 30 minutes to an indoor school, it’s getting expensive though. But Shaabrak and Woodfalls Inigo Jones, who I’m aiming at Badminton, have been in work since early December.”

    And the Fredericks, on Salisbury Plain, have coped fine — thanks to an equine treadmill they bought in December.

    “It would have been a complete disaster without it,” said Clayton. “It’s especially useful for the four I’m taking to Barroca [4 March].”

    British Dressage (BD) reports 18 competition cancellations but the weather had less impact on the sport than other disciplines.

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (21 January, ’10)

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