A few riders from the Appleby Horse Fair.
Every June Gypsies and Travellers from the UK and Ireland gather to buy and sell horses at Appleby in Westmorland…a custom that has lasted since 1775. At certain times, the horses are brought down to the river Eden to be hand-washed or ridden through the water before being sold. There has been much controversy about the cruelty aspect of this spectacle and the RSPCA now patrol the event and riders who are seen to abuse the horses are reported and given a warning or may be prosecuted…but most of the riders appeared to look after the horses well and instances of cruelty are said to be few. However, we did see some rather vigorous use of the whip from time to time by a minority of riders and one horse who tried to climb up the embankment to get out of the river was clearly stressed.
I did enjoy seeing the young gypsies, some of whom were very competent riders and quite bold in immersing the horse and themselves up to the neck in the river. A spectacle it certainly is and the jury is out on the cruelty aspect. “Animal Aid” have called for an end to the practice but I doubt that will happen, though I would support more controls on how the horses are treated to make sure they are not unduly stressed or put in danger of injury.