Eighteen awards have been given out in celebration of the best horse health, happiness, and horsemanship at this year’s Appleby Horse Fair.

The annual Gypsy Roma and Traveller gathering, which is the biggest in the UK, concluded on Monday (12th June) in the Cumbrian town of Appleby-in-Westmorland*.

Nine animal charities** – all members of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) – sent staff to the Fair to support the protection and wellbeing of horses, and the awards are organised by them to recognise the very best welfare at the event.

Andie McPherson, co-ordinator of Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project, said: “The award winners were chosen either by our longstanding, committed vets at the Fair or one of our invited experts.

“This year we were supported again by leading farrier and educator Dean Bland along with Master harness makers Chris Taylor and Laurence Pearman who found our Best Hoof Health and Best in Harness winners.

“The most prestigious awards were announced on Sunday, after all the vets agreed on an overall Vet’s Choice Champion and the Best at Appleby social media ‘votes’ were counted for the People’s Choice Champion. The awards give us the chance to put focus on the passionate horsemanship and high welfare standards at the Fair which often get overshadowed by the relatively few welfare cases.

“It’s a privilege to give each owner the award and to see how made up they are with the recognition – many who go on to share their valuable horse knowledge with others.

“We are very grateful to everyone who supported the awards including the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association who sponsor them each year and to every previous winner who came to speak to us.”

The Vets’ Choice Award went to Lemon, owned by Craig and Sophie, whilst the People’s Choice Award went to Sundance Kid, owned by Liam and family, whose post had over 500 likes and a reach of over 17,000 across the Best at Appleby Facebook and Instagram pages. A TikTok account was created for the competition for the first time this year which has had almost 45k views in one week.

Nicola Berryman, one of Redwings’ Welfare Veterinary Surgeons, said: “For us as vets at Appleby Horse Fair this is probably the best part of our role.

“Lemon not only represented the Best Hoof Health at the Fair – chosen by none other than Dean Bland, who worked on horses’ feet at the Olympics! – but she is also a horse in great condition. She had no rubs, was beautifully turned out, and happy doing her job.

We heard from her owners that she was a problem horse when she was younger and I’m proud to have awarded her the overall Vets’ Choice Award.

“The vets spotted Sundance Kid at the start of the Fair and were talking about him all weekend. We were really impressed by him, as was everyone who spoke to his owner and family. This truly stunning and good-natured horse has obviously had a lot of work poured into him and is a very worthy winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award.”

Ten-year-old Johnny was given a Rising Star Award, which is given to under 16s who impress, for his work with his pony Heartbreaker. Johnny said: “(I’m) really happy that I won. I was talking to one of the RSPCA and then I turned around and I saw the ribbon and I was so, so happy. [I won it for] looking after my horse the best. Looking after it and making sure she’s in good condition. I make sure she is not dehydrated, lots of feeding, make sure she is not sore or lame, make sure the harness is okay on her, and everything! Make sure she is going good!”

The full list of winners are:

Annaliese and horse Jacob – Rising Star Award (Under 16s)

Martina and horse Apache – Returning Winner Award

Freddie and Lily and horse Queenie – Rising Star Award (Under 16)

Michael and horse Rosie – Best at Appleby Award

John Paul and horse Duchess – Returning Winner Award

Tiegan and horse Smoking Sally – Rising Star Award (Under 16)

Eden and Robbie and horse Bobby Dazzler – Best at Appleby Award

Liam and horse Sundance Kid – Best at Appleby Award

Alison and horse Magic – Best at Appleby Award

Dawn and Cal – Returning Winner Award

Carl and horse Lucifer – Returning Winner Award

Johnny and pony Heartbreaker – Rising Star Award (Under 16)

Kennson and horse Mafia – Best in Harness Award

Hannah with horse Joe – Rising Star Award (Under 16)

Lara and horse Joey – Best at Appleby Award

Craig and Sophie and horse Lemon – Best Hoof Health Award

Lolly, Clare and Matt and horse Lucy – Returning Winner Award

Shanny and horse Smartie – Returning Winner Award

For the first time this year, fairgoers were asked what changes they’d like to see to make Appleby Horse Fair the best possible event for horses. The information collected by the Equine Welfare Project Group, who were wearing ‘Everyone has a voice’ armbands, will be used to develop their work for the next five years.

The RSPCA recorded 288 interventions by their officers at the event. Nine investigations are ongoing and 14 warnings were issued, mainly for exhausted horses. Nine equines, two dogs, 13 puppies and two chickens were seized by police and placed in RSPCA care.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Rob Melloy said: “We’re obviously going to be disappointed by the number of exhausted horses we’ve seen over the Fair. Some people were working their horses too hard in the heat and our vets were very busy helping those who needed it.

“The Best at Appleby Awards have highlighted some of the amazing horses and horsemanship at the Fair and we’d encourage the brilliant horse people here to use their influence, intervene or tell us when they see things they’re concerned about.

“The Appleby Horse Fair Equine Welfare Project team have been collecting the views of fairgoers and we will be planning our operation next year informed by this feedback. Thank you to everyone who spoke to them.”

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