The death of two horses in a crash on the ‘flashing lane’ at Appleby Horse Fair* on Friday (5 June) has ‘overshadowed’ what was otherwise a good event for animal welfare.


The RSPCA appealed for information after the incident which happened on Long Marton Road, traditionally used for driving and riding horses at high speed to be shown off to potential buyers.


One horse died and a second horse had to be put to sleep by a vet from Redwings Horse Sanctuary, one of the RSPCA’s partners at the event.


RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “We’ve had a lot of information though, and thank everyone who has been in touch with us, by various means, to help with our investigation into what happened. This is ongoing so I can’t say any more at this time, other than that we are very grateful.


“Sadly, this awful incident has overshadowed what was otherwise a good event for animal welfare.”


The RSPCA have four ongoing investigations resulting from the event.


The RSPCA issued 148 people with advice over the course of the fair, and gave out 10 warnings. This compares to 147 last year and three warnings, and 142 and 10 the year before. In 2012 the figures were 192 and 38. In 2011 they were an astonishing 346 and 17 and, in 2010, 311 and 23.


“When you look at the figures like that it’s clear that the work we and our partner charities are doing, and have done over the years, supported by the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG), is working,” said RSPCA chief inspector Melloy.


The RSPCA is the lead animal welfare organisation at the fair and had 26 officers there this year including specialist equine officers from all over the country. Redwings Horse Sanctuary sent three vets and two specialist field officers. World Horse Welfare sent four field officers. Blue Cross sent six grooms and one horse-unit manager to assist with the handling and transportation of horses. The Donkey Sanctuary sent a vet, their Head of Welfare and a Donkey Welfare Advisor.


Education staff and volunteers from all four of the animal welfare charities – all members of the National Equine Welfare Council – along with The British Horse Society (BHS) also manned an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where Gypsies and Travellers were able to share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care. Now in its fifth year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring. This year they also ran a competition to reward good examples of horse care and welfare called ‘Best in Show’ which had a really positive response from fair-goers.


*Appleby Fair is unique in Europe and, as well as attracting around 10,000 Gypsies and Travellers, over 30,000 other visitors attend the fair, with Sunday being the traditional main visitors’ day. It transforms the town of Appleby for the week, as it normally has a population of around 2,500.


The fair has been in existence for at least 300 years, and probably longer. It is the largest horse fair in Britain and amongst the oldest in Europe.


The fair has a primary connection with Fair Hill, which is in the ownership of Appleby Town Council. Much of the horse dealing takes place at the crossroads by Fair Hill, and on the Sands by the River Eden, where nearby roads are closed for periods to allow horses to be shown and traded.


Multi Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG)


In October 2007, the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group (MASCG) was set up to bring together and co-ordinate the work of the key public agencies that have a regulatory role at the Fair.


The MASCG consists of representatives from the Gypsy and Traveller community, Eden District Council, Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Cumbria NHS, North West Ambulance Service, RSPCA, Environment Agency, South Lakeland District Council, Highways Agency and HMRC. The objective is to make the fair a safer and more enjoyable event for residents, Gypsies and Travellers and visitors.


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