End of the road for Ponies (UK) owing to legal wrangle *H&H Plus*

  • The showing society is no longer trading as Ponies Association (UK), following a High Court claim brought by its former chairman and her partner, but will continue under a new name. H&H finds out more about the case...

    A major showing organisation has “ceased trading” and transferred its business to a new company following a legal wrangle with a former chairman and her partner.

    Ponies Association (UK) closed on 21 May and has transferred to the new company UK Horses & Ponies Ltd on 31 May.

    Carol Cooper was a member of P(UK) since its formation in October 1988 and served as chairman from 2017 to 2019. Her partner, Tolga Falahat, joined as a member in 2018. Both memberships were terminated by P(UK) earlier this year.

    The High Court claim brought by the pair, dated 7 May, hinged on disputes over the management of the organisation — including whether certain members of the council should legally be allowed to hold the positions they did.

    It also centred on whether there was “good and sufficient reason” to terminate Ms Cooper and Mr Falahat’s memberships, along with the handling of the dispute and whether the pair were given a fair chance to defend themselves against the allegations before the decision was made.

    The announcement from P(UK) on 1 June states that the company has ceased trading as a result of further High Court legal action threatened by solicitors acting for Ms Cooper and Mr Falahat “arising out of the entirely valid termination of their memberships”.

    “Council has decided that it would be an inappropriate spend of the associations resources to fund a defence to these proceedings,” it states.

    “Although council has been advised that any defence of such proceedings would be successful, as is usual in legal proceedings, the association would only recover approximately 70% of its costs.”

    It continues that UK Ponies & Horses Limited has similar objects to P(UK), council members will be automatically transferred, and all other members will hold the same class of membership for the remainder of the membership year. It has also adopted the same rule book.

    “Needless to say, Carol Cooper and Tolga Falahat will not be admitted as members of UK Ponies & Horses Limited,” it adds. “The aim is to make the transition as seamless as possible, and most members should experience very little change.”

    Ms Cooper told H&H she is “heartbroken” at the news P(UK) has ceased trading, having been a life member since its formation and her late mother was patron of the society.

    She added she has “very fond memories” of P(UK) and was passionately involved in organising shows and events for many years.

    “My ambition was always to serve the membership and build on the foundations of P(UK),” she said.

    “At the onset of my appointment as a director it became apparent that there were significant challenges to revive the weakening membership numbers that the association relies on as source of income.

    “We needed to adapt to the changing trends in showing and provide our members events to meet today’s equestrian demands.”

    She added the balls hosted in 2018 and 2019 were a “great success in putting the society back in the limelight”; opening shows to non-members plus new sections and qualifiers from 2017 provided “much-needed funds”; plus the organisation secured Horse of the Year Show sponsorship and qualifiers for 2019.

    “As a result, the financial position of P(UK) began to improving during 2018,” she said.

    “The organisation had to make changes to manage costs, conflicts of interest, and become more transparent to its members in the selection process for judges, and affiliated shows.”

    Ms Cooper continued: “Sadly, the path taken by P(UK) council since early 2019 when my chairmanship was terminated does not represent the vision I shared.

    “In recent months there have been false allegations towards myself, and other members, which are extremely distressing. Despite many attempts to resolve the matter amicably P(UK) council have taken the unilateral decision to cease P(UK) as a viable going concern without involving the membership and myself in the decision-making process.”

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