Horse-trekking centre shuts because riders were 'too overweight'
Overweight horse riders have caused a trekking centre at a Dartmoor farm to close because the animals cannot carry them, its owners have revealed.
The trekking centre at Babeny Farm at Poundsgate, Devon will cease trading on September 2 after the owner revealed it wasn't fair to place heavy riders on horses.
The decision for the farm to halt its trekking comes just two months after a pilot study found that if a rider is excessively heavy for a horse it can have a negative impact on the performance of the animal.
Farm owner Dee Dee Wilkinson said the decision to stop the trekking was partly due to an increase in heavier riders as well as high insurance costs and other personal reasons.
“The horses are at an age where they need replacing and getting those good replacements can be difficult,” she said.
“We are finding increasingly that people are getting heavier, so we are unable to let them ride as it isn’t fair on the horses.”
The farm which has been is business for 35 years currently has a rider weight limit of 16 stone.
Experts from the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and World Horse Welfare carried out their study after members voiced concerns that horses were being damaged by increasingly heavy riders.
The scheme which involved monitoring six horses while they trotted and cantered with four people of different weights, found there was a ‘substantial impact’ on gait and behaviour when the rider was too heavy.
Dr Sue Dyson, head of clinical orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust’s Centre for Equine Studies, who led the study said: “While all the horses finished the study moving as well as when they started, the results showed a substantial temporary effect of rider weight as a proportion of horse weight.
“The results do not mean that heavy riders should not ride but suggest that if they do they should ride a horse of appropriate size and fitness, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider.”
Now Mrs Wilkinson, who owns the farm with her husband Darren, said they plan to concentrate on the farming and livery side of the business.
She said that the decision to stop trekking was “very sad” as the farm has provided trekking to many people over the years.
“It has given numerous happy memories to people and for many their first ever experience of being near and riding a horse,” she added.
“We have no doubt that it will be very sadly missed.
“Running a trekking centre takes its toll emotionally due to the risk and physically as it’s seven days a week through the summer and then the winter.”
Despite the news, the yard is set to benefit with summer clinics, picnic rides and demonstrations to increase.
The Babeny Riding Club will also be reformed and a packed agenda of activities will be created.
“We are in the middle of Dartmoor with fantastic riding, and we’re also very lucky to have an all-weather arena so the set up is perfect for our liveries and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my own horses taking part in clinics, rides and competing,” said Mrs Wilkinson.