Officers from the RSPCA will be pulling on their drysuits to make a final sweep of the River Eden today, ahead of Appleby Horse Fair*.
The annual Gypsy and traveller event starts tomorrow (Thursday 2-Monday 6 June) in the Cumbrian town.
RSPCA staff removed about half a tonne of dangerous debris from the spot popular for the washing of horses, including gates, fence posts and rusty farm equipment last week.
RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy said: “It could have been a real danger to horses and people.
“It is something we usually do before the fair starts, which I’m not sure people realise, but this year we wanted to put extra emphasis on it given the recent floods.
“We’re expecting the weather to be good for this fair, and it’s likely there will be a lot of horses, and people, in the water, so we’re doing another sweep today.
“Of course anyone going into the water does so at their own risk.”
The weather can play a huge part in the type and number of incidents dealt with at the event, and so far it’s looking like it’s going to be warm and sunny.
RSPCA chief inspector Melloy said: “One of the biggest issues we have at the fair involves day trippers coming to experience the spectacle of the fair, and my message to them is dogs die in hot cars – leave them at home.
“They bring their pets with them, realise it’s not a safe environment and put them in the car, then we end up with a problem.
“We’ll be working with Cumbria Constabulary on a zero tolerance approach to this and where dogs are considered to be in danger they will be removed by any means necessary.”
The RSPCA is the lead animal welfare organisation at the fair and will have 31 officers there during peak times including specialist equine officers from across England and Wales.
“RSPCA officers will be arriving from all over the country today, who volunteer to be at the fair because they like working with horses and Gypsies and travellers.
“We’ve got people coming from Devon, Suffolk, Wales, Newcastle, Manchester, London, and of course our colleagues from our partner charities Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, the Donkey Sanctuary, Redwings and World Horse Welfare, without whom our work at the fair would be nowhere near as successful.”
There will be eight grooms and education staff attending from Blue Cross, four grooms/horse handlers from Bransby Horses, a vet and members of the welfare advisory team from the Donkey Sanctuary, three vets, two field officers and an education manager from Redwings and four field officers and one welfare support officer from World Horse Welfare.
As always, there will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where assistance can be sought for any animal that needs it. The vet station will be staffed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (3/4/5 June) between 10am-4pm.
Education staff and volunteers from all five of the animal welfare charities – all members of the National Equine Welfare Council – along with The British Horse Society (BHS) – will also be manning an information and education tent on Salt Tip Corner where Gypsies and travellers can share knowledge and discuss issues relating to horse care. Now in its sixth year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring.
The RSPCA will be tweeting from the event for the first time – follow @RSPCA_Frontline – and Redwings will be running their social media campaign aimed at young horse owners at the fair and supported by the other charities at the tent. ‘The Best In Show’ Facebook page will give horse owners the opportunity to share pictures of their exceptional, well looked after horses under the hashtag #BestatAppleby2016 with winners chosen by the vets on the ground throughout the show and online.
*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.
For the latest information about Appleby Horse Fair 2016 visit http://www.applebyfair.org/, follow http://twitter.com/ApplebyFair on Twitter or visit the Appleby Horse Fair Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ApplebyHorseFair