Exhaustion of horses will be a “big focus” at Appleby Horse Fair and “myths need debunking” the RSPCA has warned.
The annual event, which begins today (6 June) and runs until Monday (10 June) at Appleby in Cumbria, is the charity’s biggest deployment of staff and multi-agency undertaking of the year, with 34 RSPCA officers in attendance.
RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “Exhaustion of horses will be a big focus for the team at this year’s Appleby. We’ve had overworked and dehydrated horses on our hands for the past three years.
“A man went to prison after being convicted of causing unnecessary suffering at last year’s fair as a result of overworking his horse.”
Mr Melloy said the majority of owners at the fair are good but there are some “myths that need debunking” around providing horses water.
“It is okay to allow a horse to drink immediately after exercise,” said Mr Melloy.
“When you buy a horse [at the fair] you don’t know how much that horse has already been worked. Some of them are being massively overworked over the course of the fair – it would be like asking someone to run a marathon three days in a row.”
The Blue Cross is sending six officers from its horse team and two people from the charity’s education team. Bransby Horses and the British Horse Society are sending a team of three each. The Donkey Sanctuary is sending five welfare advisers and a vet. Redwings Horse Sanctuary has nine staff in attendance; four vets, a farrier, two senior field officers and three members of educational staff. World Horse Welfare is sending eight members of staff.
There will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal who needs it and will be staffed from Friday to Sunday between 10am and 4pm.
“Fair-goers can go to the vet station or approach our officers – or those from the other horse charities attending – if they are concerned about an animal at the event, or they can call us on 0300 1234999,” said Mr Melloy.
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A spokesman for the RSPCA said there will be an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where attendees can share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care.
“Now in its ninth year the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites,” said the spokesman.
“The RSPCA will be tweeting from the event from its @RSPCA_Frontline account and Redwings will be running their #BestAtAppleby welfare awards again this year to recognise excellent examples of equine health and horsemanship, with the overall champion and junior champion announced on Sunday.”
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