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Unity plea ahead of horse festival; Showcase for equine activities in N.Wales.

Byline: By ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor

FROM Shetlands to side saddle and from the Pony Club to polocrosse, the world of horses in North Wales will be on show at the weekend.

The first Welsh Festival of the Horse arrives at the Welsh College of Horticulture, Northop Hall, Flintshire, on Saturday, April 22.

The event, designed to showcase equine activities and facilities in the region, has been organised by BHS North East Wales.

It follows a similar festival at Margam Park, South Wales, last weekend which marked the second anniversary of the Welsh Equine Council, a registered charity that represents nearly 50 equestrian organisations in Wales.

WEC chairman Martyn Williams said both events were established as a shop window for the industry, adding: "More people ride in Wales than play rugby, but you wouldn't believe it for the amount of recognition the equine industry gets from the media, politicians and grant-making bodies."

The WEC aims to change that by acting as a distinct pressure group capable of raising the profile of the equestrian world and attracting more finance.

Talks have already been held with Wales countryside minister Carwyn Jones and the council is emerging as a powerful voice in Cardiff Bay.

Despite the number of participants, the equine world in Wales was fragmented, with each unit operating separately, said Mr Williams.

"How does a country with three million people, have more than 50 equestrian organisations?" he said.

"It is absurd, and we know there are more out there.

"The British Horse Society in Wales promotes itself, the harness people promote themselves, and so does the Welsh Pony & Cob Society. I once went to a meeting where members of a society in Anglesey openly admitted they did not speak to members of the same society in Caernarf on.

"The sooner people take unification seriously the sooner we can achieve things in fields like education, welfare, training and access to bridleways.

"Perhaps these festivals will convince people that only by working and promoting together will we achieve anything like the success of the Irish equestrian industry."

On Saturday, Northop College's indoor arena will host demonstrations of side-saddle, Western riding, polocrosse, Trek, carriage driving, dressage and Riding for the Disabled vaulting.

Outside there will be displays of Intelligent Horsemanship (Lyn Dix-on), Centred Riding (Lisa Pritchard) and equine aromather-apy (Cathy Nicholson).

Bitless Bridle UK will demonstrate treeless saddle fitting and bitless bridle fitting. In the evening at 7.30pm top international showjumper Geoff Billington is bringing four horses for a lecture demonstration.

farming@dailypost.co.uk

The sooner people take unification seriously the sooner we can achieve things

Martyn Williams

FESTIVAL FACTS

Welsh Festival of the Horse, Saturday, April 22, Welsh College of Horticulture, Northop. Open from 10.30 with first demo at 11 am. Admission is pounds 3 and pounds 2 concessions. Geoff Billington demo: Tickets pounds 15 and pounds 10 concessions from Barbara, 01745 812127.

CAPTION(S):

Portuguese Lusitano horses display at the Festival of the Horse in Margam Park, south Wales, last weekend -the equivalent North Wales event is at Northop Hall on Saturday
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 20, 2006
Words:514
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