EIGHT people were asked to dismount at the Great Yorkshire Show (GYS, 12-14 July) as they were deemed to be too heavy for their rides.
Vet Julian Rishworth, acting on a regulation set by the show’s committee, spoke to adults riding children’s ponies in the warm-up area on the Thursday of the show.
The committee had ruled that the maximum rider weight allowed would be 20% of the horse’s weight.
“We’ve been trying to tackle this very thorny issue for a while now,” Mr Rishworth told H&H.
“It comes down to horses who are too fat and riders who are too heavy for horses, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
“The weight of horses is a subjective issue to tackle but with riders’ weight, you can be more objective.
“We decided the more pressing welfare concern was jockeys who are too heavy or an inappropriate size.”
Mr Rishworth said the committee set the 20% figure having looked into the results of various pieces of research, and that a set of scales was available, should any rider question the judgment.
“We said: ‘I’m sorry sir, you’re too big, please get off’, and all but one did,” Mr Rishworth said. “There were about eight adults riding kids’ ponies.
“It was interesting to see the reaction; other people working in came over and said ‘congratulations’. I think it’s generally recognised as a problem.”
Mr Rishworth said overweight riders are “absolutely a welfare issue”, and at future shows, horses and ponies warming up while carrying people who do weigh more than the 20% may be prevented from competing.
“Is it any less a welfare issue that it’s being ridden outside the ring?” he said. “No. Does it give that competitor an unfair advantage?
“One person we asked to dismount said: ‘What am I supposed to do, put a child on and have an accident?’ But if the pony’s not suitable for a child, should it be shown as a child’s pony?”
GYS livestock and entries co-ordinator Amanda Stoddart-West said the man who did argue when asked to dismount would be sent a letter informing him that he had ignored a show official and gone against a show regulation.
“We’re not saying people shouldn’t ride, just that they should be on the right size animals,” she said. A 12hh pony being ridden by a big adult is just wrong.”
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Tom Best, who was judging ridden mountain and moorland Horse of the Year Show qualifying classes at the GYS, also spoke to some competitors about the issue.
“One was embarrassed and said she was riding it as her daughter wasn’t confident and she wanted it to have big ring experience but others thought they were quite entitled to be bigger riders on smaller ponies,” he told H&H.
“There’s a growing feeling among judges and the showing community that something needs to be done.”