The overworking of horses was the big issue at this year’s Appleby Horse Fair*, during which temperatures soared.


“We had to warn far too many people whose horses were being worked to exhaustion in the heat,” said RSPCA chief inspector Rob Melloy.


“It was an exceptionally hot few days – which gave the fair a real holiday-type atmosphere, and relations were good throughout – but quite frankly, they should have known better. A number of horses had to be given fluids on site.”


Despite warnings not to leave dogs in vehicles, two dogs had to be removed from a hot van on Sunday. Fortunately the dogs were okay. The owner was given a warning.


The RSPCA has two ongoing investigations, and six horses were taken away from the fair.


The RSPCA issued 274 people with advice over the course of the event, and gave out 13 warnings. This compares to 148 and 10 warnings last year. In 2014, the figures were 147 and three warnings, and 142 and 10 in 2013. In 2012 the figures were 192 and 38. In 2011 they were 346 and 17 and, in 2010, 311 and 23.


“When you look at the figures year on year like this 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), has worked,” said RSPCA chief inspector Melloy.


“We know that the weather plays a huge part in the type and number of incidents dealt with at the event, and we had in increase in staff on the ground this year working different hours which I’m sure has had an impact, but I’d be lying if I said that this year’s numbers aren’t disappointing.”


The RSPCA is the lead animal welfare organisation at the fair and had 31 officers there this year including specialist equine officers from all over the country, making it the biggest deployment of RSPCA officers to a scheduled event across the year.


Blue Cross sent eight grooms and education staff attending, Bransby Horses sent four grooms/horse handlers, the Donkey Sanctuary sent a vet and members of the welfare advisory team, Redwings sent three vets, two field officers and an education manager and World Horse Welfare sent four field officers and one welfare support officer.


Education staff and volunteers from all 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 sixth year, the tent continues to grow in popularity thanks to interactive activities including specimens of real horse parasites and body condition scoring. This year Redwings 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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