ANIMAL rights group Animal Aid are right to bring to the fore the controversial topic of riding horses fast on the flashing lane at Appleby Horse Fair.

Nobody wants to see animals suffer - including members of the travelling community, whose livelihood has centred around horses for centuries.

Each year hundreds of horses are shown off to potential buyers with no cause for concern.

The deaths of two horses this year has marred what otherwise was heralded as a successful fair by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

However, banning the tradition is unlikely to have a positive effect and will no doubt see the riding spread onto streets across the town rather than being concentrated in one place.

Perhaps the way forward would be to limit the amount of horses allowed on the road at any one time.

Another concern arising from the fair was an attempted robbery at a burger van on Fair Hill, where many of the visiting gypsies camp.

This was an isolated incident and has overshadowed the fact that police made just 15 arrests over the duration of the event - the lowest total ever recorded.

It is the largest policing event of the year in the county and at a time when their resources are forever being stretched, Cumbria Police must be commended for their efforts in helping the fair run as smoothly as possible. Credit must also go to the Multi-Agency Strategic Co-ordinating Group, chaired by Eden District Council and made up of representatives from the travelling community, South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria County Council, police, the RSPCA and Trading Standards.

As the dust settles on this year’s event, work will begin in earnest preparing for next year.

And although some of Appleby’s residents may disapprove of the fair and the potential disorder it brings to the small market town, it is a tradition that, for one week, shines the spotlight on the Eden Valley and gives businesses a welcome boost.