Left alone – or drunk in the lorry park: warning to parents after children abandoned at shows

  • British Showjumping (BS) has urged parents and carers of junior riders to ensure they are always accompanied at competitions – after cases of children being abandoned at shows, including one found drunk in the lorry park.

    BS put out an online request to those responsible for children, asking them to ensure they are not left alone. Chief executive Iain Graham told H&H he had initially planned just to email junior riders’ responsible adults.

    “But I decided to put it online; it might get people talking and make them realise this is unacceptable,” he said. “We understand people want to give children all the opportunities they can, but it needs to be in a safe and responsible way.”

    Mr Graham said there have been cases of children left alone at shows with a pony or horse, and of under-16s left in charge of younger siblings.

    “Then a judge or collecting ring steward realises there’s no one with the child, and has a conversation,” he said. “One was under the age of 12, and when gently spoken to said ‘I’ll be fine’; the mother had dropped her off and a friend was supposed to be collecting her but was held up. When the mother was contacted, she said there were people there who knew the child but none of them knew they were responsible for her.”

    Mr Graham cited the British Eventing request for any adult riders at events on their own to let the secretary know, in case of anything happening.

    “To me it’s unacceptable that adults think they can just leave a child in charge of a horse or pony with no adults around,” he said. “Anything could happen; the pony has an accident, or the child. It’s a risk sport and children aren’t equipped to deal with these things on their own.”

    There has been worse too; Mr Graham said at one stay-away show, an inebriated child was found in the lorry park one night; the parents had booked themselves into a hotel and left the child there with the lorry.

    “It’s ridiculous,” he said, adding that there have been occasions social services have become involved as a result of these cases.

    “Some of the cases have been flagged as safeguarding issues through British Equestrian,” he said. “If a parent left a child at home and went to stay in a hotel, social services would be involved and this is worse. It’s not right on any level.”

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