Rebecca Penny: Falling victim to the ‘fat police’ *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Great Yorkshire Show (GYS) is always one of my favourites. This year, its special atmosphere turned surreal, as I fell victim to the “fat police”. I’m 5ft tall and wear jodhpurs designed for 11 to 12-year-olds. Yet according to an official who asked me to dismount in the collecting ring, I was deemed too big for the Dartmoor stallion I was preparing to compete, despite having been placed in the top three in this class for the past four years.

    This is the third year running that GYS has targeted adults on ponies; while I agree welfare is paramount, it’s unacceptable that a subjective judgement was made on both welfare and weight of either the pony and rider without the use of weight-recording equipment. If this had been done, it would have been noted that I do not exceed the 20% recommendation.

    I was offered the opportunity to be weighed but not for the pony to be weighed, and one without the other would be worthless. Two other riders who were asked to dismount have told me that they weren’t given the chance, either. I’m amazed this could happen, as for 20 years, I’ve ridden ponies under 12hh without any issues.

    Incidents like this have huge ramifications and I am not alone in fearing for the future of our ridden small breeds. Entries are depleting across the board, but these classes are supposed to be a showcase for our native breeds — several of which are endangered.

    Many appropriately-sized pony riders have told me that they would now be reluctant to show a small breed. This is a real kick in the teeth for breeders and enthusiasts.

    We also must consider the message this sends to aspiring riders who are not overweight, but may be so worried about being criticised that they no longer eat properly. No one wants to see overweight riders — or ponies — but parents have told me they are worried about young riders who they fear are at risk of developing eating disorders.

    Lower entry fees?

    GYS is one of the shows where you get a real buzz from taking part. Much is said about entries falling, but at the ones where everyone wants to ride, such as here and Windsor, numbers are thriving.

    There were 51 in my HOYS ridden coloured class, held in the White Rose ring. It was a great class that would have been even better if the jumps had been removed to give riders more room and spectators a clearer view.

    When you pay £60 to enter, providing a clear ring would be a courtesy, as would amending the rule that allows only members to use the main ring grandstand.

    This was often empty, so how about giving grandstand passes for exhibitors’ connections or, as at the Royal Welsh, charging a token admission fee?

    On a good note, full marks to the GYS team for maintaining the ground so well. The rings had a good bounce and tracks were sanded. We couldn’t have hoped for better going.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 July 2018