The annual Gypsy Roma and Traveller gathering, which is the biggest in the UK, starts on Thursday 8th June in the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, though many people have already arrived in the area.
Appleby Horse Fair is centred around the trading of horses and has been in existence for at least 300 years. It is very important to the GRT community, around 10,000 of whom attend the Fair, as well as more than 30,000 other visitors.
Nine animal welfare charities – who are all members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) - work together at Appleby to support the protection and well-being of the horses at the event.
The collaboration, called Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project, is made up of the RSPCA which is sending 34 people this year; Redwings Horse Sanctuary which is sending nine; Blue Cross which is sending eight; World Horse Welfare is sending eight; Bransby Horses is sending six; The British Horse Society is sending three; The Donkey Sanctuary is sending three; Oak Tree Animals which is sending two and The Horse Trust.
RSPCA officers will be supported by the other charities to help any animals who are sick, injured or whose needs are not being met.
RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said: “The weather plays a huge role in the Fair and the forecast says it’s going to be a hot one.
“Just as it’s important for us to drink plenty and not work too hard in hot weather, it’s important for our horses. They need to have regular access to water, be drinking after being worked and be tied up in the shade. Owners may need to have more patience than normal as horses sometimes don’t want to drink if they are in an overstimulating environment.
“Due to the nature of any horse fair, where animals are traded, and especially given that Appleby comes off the back of Kirkby Stephen, owners may not know how much their horse has been worked beforehand so we want to encourage people to err on the safe side and not overdo it, especially in the conditions.
“Day trippers should not be bringing their dogs to the Fair. Most people know by now that leaving a dog in a car on a hot day can be fatal but unbelievably some people still take the risk and we’ve had to rescue dogs at 14 of the past 15 events. This isn’t the only danger though, we now know that exercising your dog on a hot day can be just as hazardous*, so please don’t put your pet or yourself in that position.”
There will be a vet station at Salt Tip Corner where fairgoers can go for assistance with any animal that needs it, and anyone with any concerns can approach an RSPCA or World Horse Welfare officer or call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. The vet station is staffed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm.
This year, Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project is asking fairgoers what changes – if any – they think could be made to make it the best possible event for horses. Staff will be identifiable by white ‘Everyone has a voice’ armbands, or anyone who would like to have their say is invited to head to the red NEWC tent on Salt Tip Corner for refreshments and a chat.
The ‘Best at Appleby’ competition – sponsored by the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association and now in its 8th year – will celebrate examples of equine health, happiness, and horsemanship. Since 2015 over 60 rosettes have been given out during the Fair, including the most prestigious Vet’s Choice and People’s Choice – chosen by the public on social media. To get involved go to facebook.com/HappyHealthyHorses/