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Clash of words over cancelled pony drift
1:01pm Thursday 10th October 2013 in News
A TRADITIONAL pony drift in the New Forest had to be cancelled at the weekend due to a mass cycling event.
The Verderers say they had no choice but to cancel the scheduled round-up of Forest ponies due to take place at New Park, Brockenhurst in order to prevent accidents as thousands of cycling enthusiasts arrived to take part in the Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive.
About 3,000 cyclists took part in the event through the Forest.
The Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA), which represents the owners of the Forest’s famous ponies, criticised Wiggle organisers in the wake of the decision to axe the round-up.
But UK Cycling Events hit back, accusing the Verderers of failing to give enough advance warning of the round-up.
The pony drifts are held at various locations each year to enable experts to inspect ponies and assess their condition.
A CDA spokesman said: “Faced with the determination of UK Cycle Events and the New Forest Show Society that the cycle event should go ahead, the Verderers had no alternative but to act responsibly and cancel the drift to avoid the obvious risk if both events were to go ahead.
“Drifts are planned at least a year in advance and always include Sundays to minimise disruption to both residents and commoners’ jobs.”
CDA chairman Dr Graham Ferris added: “Commoners are angry and appalled that a commercially-motivated event should take precedence over drifts, which have been part of the cultural heritage of the Forest since time immemorial.
“Drifts are vital for our members to manage their livestock, which have shaped and maintained the unique landscape of the New Forest.
“We fully respect the responsible decision taken by the Verderers but believe that organisers of mass events in the Forest should take adequate steps to prevent clashes of this kind.”
But Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events said organisers booked the venue late last year and informed the authorities.
He added: “Despite offers of altering our event and working with the drift to ensure it was safe and could continue, the Verderers made the decision to move it to another day.
“We hope that with better communication from the Verderers, future clashes can be avoided.”
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