New rider age rule sparks debate in showing circles *H&H Plus*

  • The new rule, which would have applied last year had the show not been lost to Covid, concerns the ages of those riding any horse or pony on the showground. H&H speaks to the show, welfare experts and a producer to find out more

    A NEW rule on rider age at the Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) has sparked debate – and applause from welfare experts.

    At this year’s event (13–16 July), equids may only be ridden by the riders who are entered to compete with them in certain classes. Any substitute rider may only ride the animal outside the ring if he or she is eligible in age to compete in the same class.

    The rule, which would have applied last year had the show not been lost to Covid, is in addition to the ban on anyone riding a horse or pony whose weight, including tack, is more than 20% of the animal’s weight, anywhere on the showground, which has been in place since 2016.

    A GYS spokesman said: “Animal welfare is of paramount importance and is an issue we take very seriously, without compromise. As such, our rules are very clear.”

    GYS livestock and entries co-ordinator Amanda Stoddart-West told H&H the age rule had been brought in as some riders were doing their best to flout the 20% rule.

    “We’ve had many emails from people saying ‘thank you, finally someone’s doing something about this’,” she said.

    “This should ideally have come from breed or pony societies; it’s a shame a show has had to do it but at least it’s being discussed now. We’ve had supportive messages from judges too, saying it’s been needed for a long time.”

    Producer Edward Young said he will not be entering the GYS this year, despite the fact it is his local and much-loved county show, owing to the rule.

    “The GYS has taken a view on welfare, with the 20% rule, which hasn’t met a great deal of opposition,” he said. “But this is nonsensical.”

    Mr Young gave the example of a girl at his yard who would have competed her 13.2hh followed by her 12.2hh in consecutive classes, so would not have been able to warm up the smaller pony.

    “We’ve got a girl at the yard who’s within 20% so could warm up the other pony but that means taking another child, from another household, in Covid,” he said. “No one’s explained why a 7st 7lb adult isn’t abuse [in some classes] but a 7st 7lb child who’s too old is. My horse doesn’t know how old I am; he may have an opinion on my weight but he doesn’t care how old I am. I don’t see how they can hang this on the welfare peg, if the 20% rule is stuck to.”

    Mr Young said he had heard the rule may have been to create a fairer playing field, as some children do not have lightweight adults to warm ponies up for them.

    Ms Stoddart-West said it was based on welfare, and is needed as the 20% rule was not entirely complied with, but that the more level playing field is a not unwelcome effect.

    “If people hadn’t tried to ignore the 20% rule, we wouldn’t have had to bring this one in,” she said.

    World Horse Welfare deputy chief executive Tony Tyler told H&H: “We applaud the fact that the Great Yorkshire Show continues to set an example to others by taking steps that help ensure horses and ponies are not overworked and only ridden by appropriately sized riders at all times on the showground.”

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