Fear that credit crunch could increase welfare charity workload

DURING the recent spell of bad weather, Gus Dowson has taken many calls from people who were concerned about seeing horses and ponies turned out in the snow.

It is Gus's job to follow up these calls and he says: "People are worried about whether the horse is being fed and watered okay but in the majority of cases they are fine. Cases of wilful neglect are few and far between."

Depending on what he finds, he will then keep a regular check on a horse to make sure its condition has not deteriorated.

Gus is a field officer for the charity World Horse Welfare and the territory he covers takes in a large chunk of the north of England including North, West and East Yorkshire. He spent 30 years in the mounted police with the West Yorkshire and Humberside forces and went to work for the charity when he retired.

"It's my way of giving a little bit back after a career with horses," says Gus. He got to know about the work of WHW, formerly the ILPH, through taking police horses which were retiring down to the charity's farm in Norfolk. Some that he used to ride are still in retirement there.

"In most cases it's a question of using common sense," says Gus.

I joined him to check on a pony in a field at Rodley near Leeds which somebody living nearby was concerned about.

The field was not ideal, strewn with some rubbish and an old car tyre but there was plenty of space and access to water.

Most importantly, the pony looked well and obviously had enough to eat.

Another part of his job is to oversee the loan scheme in his area, a patch that also includes County Durham, Cleveland, Teesside and Northumberland.

The charity looks after around 330 horses and ponies on its four farms and has just under 2,000 out on loan.

Seeing a horse happily re-homed is the best part of the job so far as Gus is concerned.

Once somebody has selected a loan horse or pony from one of the centres and shown they are capable of looking after it, Gus will then do a home visit to make sure everything else is suitable.

He will then follow this up with two or three visits throughout the year.

A recent success was a Welsh pony which had had a very bad start in life and had been taken to the charity's Penny Farm at Blackpool.

"It went to its new home in November as a companion and now it looks a picture," said Gus.

"It's a happy little pony and has gone from really bad circumstances to doing something useful. I find that very rewarding."

He is now in his 10th year with the charity which has expanded its work considerably during this time. "We are getting more welfare calls but I think that's probably because we are becoming more well known. And I don't think the credit crunch has really hit yet, I think we'll be seeing the effects of that more this year."

If you would like more information about cutting costs without compromising on welfare, go to www.worldhorsewelfare.org.

Whitaker brothers look set for top

RIDERS selected for the 2011-2013 World Class Development Programme were announced this week by the British Equestrian Federation.

The programme covers the three Olympic sports of dressage, eventing and show-jumping and the Paralympic sport of Para-equestrian dressage and works with talented riders to help them reach their maximum potential.

A number of Yorkshire riders have been selected, particularly from the world of show-jumping.

They include brothers William and George Whitaker and their cousin, Joe Clayton. Also on the list are Matt Sampson, from Sheffield, Dan Neilson, from Loftus, who is now based in Essex and West Yorkshire rider Alison Barton.

Among the Para-equestrian riders to have been selected is Natasha Adkinson from South Yorkshire.

"The selection process was slightly changed this time and carried on over a longer period of time, allowing applicants to be seen 'in competition'," said Will Connell, World Class Performance director.

"The standard of rider applying was higher than ever and the selectors had a difficult job. But that's excellent news for us as a nation as it reflects the wealth of talent we are fortunate to have."

THE heart of the Dartmoor National park will be the setting for the BHS TREC Championship of Great Britain this year. The event will be held at Holwell Lawn, Widecombe in the Moor, Devon on September 3 and 4.

Competitors will ride over some stunning countryside and the routes will include some steep climbs and descents for the more experienced riders.

Competitors can qualify at a number of competitions in different parts of the country. For more information go to www.bhs.org.uk or call Becky Lindley on 02476 840591.

Steph is searching for guinea pigs for Northallerton event

STEPHANIE CROXFORD and her grand prix dressage partner, Mr President, will be at Northallerton Equestrian Centre in March for a demonstration and question and answer session.

Steph will talk about her experience of producing a young horse without classical dressage breeding or conformation to the highest level of the sport.

She will ride her six-year-old horse, Mr Hyde, to demonstrate her training methods and to complete the evening she will demonstrate her 'Grand Prix to Music' with Mr President.

Steph, who is based at Matlock in Derbyshire, juggles horses with a job, husband and two young children. The Northallerton evening, on March 18, is one of three she has planned.

The others are at Barleyfield on March 25 and Moreton Morrell on April 2.

If you and your horse would like to volunteer as guinea pigs and take part in the evening you can apply on-line at www.suecarsonsaddles.co.uk.

Short-listed riders will be contacted for more information.

Steph is also keen to answer questions which should be submitted beforehand to the address above.

There will be prizes for the people whose questions are selected for discussion. Steph will also be teaching at a clinic at Northallerton Equestrian Centre on March 18.

For more information about this go to www.northallerton

equestriancentre.co.uk and for tickets call 01629 540343 or go to the Sue Carson Saddles website.

CW 15/1/11