As the scramble to complete entries and book stables for the 2020 season gathers pace, it is likely social media will again be a platform to buy and sell stables.
While most transactions are amicable, not knowing exactly who is on site and in which stable causes problems for organisers. There have also been cases were stables have been advertised for resale at an inflated price.
Last year, “block-booked” stables for the Northern Ireland Showing Festival (NIF) at Cavan Equestrian Centre were advertised for up to three times the purchase price.
Many NIF classes close early when they have reached capacity, and all 500 on-site stables are snapped up — last year within eight hours of going on sale.
After reports of people buying extra stables to sell on at inflated rates, the committee acted fast.
“We decided we needed a fairer system and have decided to make stables available only after the final schedule is published,” said NIF chairman Paul Smith.
“Hopefully, this system will give everyone an equal opportunity of securing a stable on site for the days they require.
“Cavan will issue stables on a non-transferable basis and those booking will need to provide ID when collecting stable numbers.
“If stables are not needed, they must be sold back to Cavan, which will offer them to the next person on the waiting list.”
As temporary stables begin their trek around the country, Royal Windsor Horse Show, the jewel in the crown for many exhibitors, is usually the first big test for the outdoor circuit.
But although space is restricted to 220 sellable stables, organiser HPower has a tried and trusted method.
“About half our stables are booked for the duration, the other half rotate every few days,” said HPower’s Nick Brooks-Ward.
“We do pick up that stables change hands but think 95% are offered back to us to resell to a waiting list. Exhibitors tend to be honest about their requirements and work with us, and we have experienced very few problems.”
The Great Yorkshire, in July, is another hugely popular show that must accommodate mammoth entries, and its stabling policy is printed in the schedule.
Refunds are only made if stables are cancelled, in writing by a set date, to enable the office to resell it.
Stables bought and sold anywhere other than through Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) will not be recognised.
Stables are allocated first-come first-served and although YAS cannot guarantee all requests, priority is usually given to those bringing mares and foals or travelling more than four hours.
“There is a refundable deposit system and if we receive a tip-off an exhibitor is selling stables on social media, we contact them to explain the waiting list and they then tend to resell the stable back to us,” explained Amanda Stoddart-West, livestock and entries co-ordinator.
Running four major fixtures, the stable staff at Hickstead have their hands full all summer.
With 100 permanent stables, Hickstead’s extra requirement is 600 to 1,300 temporary stables.
“We have never run out of stables yet,” said Hickstead director Edward Bunn. “Our aim is to run a secure site, but we accept that some book a few stables for more than one person.
“But if lorries arrive with the right number of horses and correct passes, that’s fine.”
Hickstead has monitored social media for wristband and stable sales, but rather than have trading go underground, this year, the Sussex showground has created its own Facebook page.
“Not knowing who is on site and in which stable is a security worry, so although we won’t allow direct selling on this page, anyone can enquire if spare passes/stables are available,” added Mr Bunn.
With space at a premium, Horse of the Year show (HOYS) entrants can initially only book a stable for the nights before and of their classes. Additional requirements are added to a waiting list, and once entries have closed, organiser Grandstand Media works through this list.
As all exhibits must pass a vet check upon arrival and provide booking information, it is considered more difficult to swap or sell stables. Emergency contact cards on each stable have contact details and are monitored.
Permanent show centres have highlighted huge problems when exhibitors sell stables.
Lauren Fogg at Arena UK can have around 450 stables occupied and is just one organiser to face the nightmare of accommodating extra people, ponies and lorries.
Added to that, information on size is important so a 16.2hh jumper is not in a pony box and a stallion is correctly stabled.
Ms Fogg highlights a frequent example when one entry is made for four ponies, with one rider and one lorry. Then instead, four arrive with one pony each, leading to the stable manager and show organiser having to accommodate three extra lorries and hook-ups.
“People need to communicate,” Ms Fogg said. “We run a good waiting list system and for security and health and safety, we need to know where horses and ponies are stabled and who is responsible for them.
“In the past we have contacted the original person who booked the stable only to find they are not on site and have sold the stables.
“We monitor social media and advise people they cannot advertise their stables.”
Aintree International does not allow stables to be sold.
“As we need to know which stable is allocated to whom, we need to take control and are really strict on selling or swapping, and constantly monitor social media,” said centre manager Carly Sage.
“But we feel we are competitor-friendly and do try to sell stables on their behalf; if successful, we do give refunds.”
The junior showjumping circuit is one of the busiest, and although she agrees profiteering does happen, pony rider parent Arlina Mauree communicates regularly with show centres and reports happy bookings and refunds.
“Some shows don’t refund stables, so it works out better if we can swap between friends,” Arlina said. “If we cancel entries, most of us just want to re-coup costs.”
The professional riders are also keen to help each other out.
Showing producer Penny Hollings bought a week’s box at Hickstead and sold the nights she was not there.
“It makes more sense to share as you may end up bedding down a box for just one night. Selling to people you know ensures the stable is kept clean if you need it later that week,” she said.
It seems communication is key and honesty the best policy, but organisers hope exhibitors will check policies to prevent any embarrassment.
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