NEW DEER Agricultural Association has announced a clampdown on equine flu by making it mandatory that all horses, ponies and donkeys entering its showground must arrive with proof that they have been vaccinated within the last year.

The precaution follows an outbreak of equine flu in a Cheshire yard in February, which prompted the British Horseracing Authority to abandon four race meetings at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford that week.

Now the New Deer committee wants equine competitors turning up at Craigieford Park on July 20 and 21 to adhere to the BHA's guidelines, with the last flu vaccination having been administered to their horses no more than 12 months prior to entry to the showground; for those horses to have completed the primary course of two vaccinations; and for the last vaccination to have been administered at least seven days before entering the showground.

"Random passport checks will be implemented and any horse without a valid vaccination protocol or owner/exhibitor unable to produce a valid passport will lead to immediate eviction of that horse/pony/donkey from the showground," said the committee announcement.

However, some regular competitors at the north-east show have accused the committee of 'overreacting' to the flu threat, and jeopardising the future of the show.

One member of the committee – regular Shetland pony competitor Harry Sleigh – has since quit over the plans, and warned that the cost of the injections could put people off coming to New Deer to compete.

“I think New Deer Show have jumped the gun," said Mr Sleigh. "I understand that performance horses that travel all over the country need vaccinated for flu, which is fair enough. But if agricultural shows follow this, they will have a huge downturn in native pony entries.

“It is a very emotive subject and people might criticise my view, but I don’t think the flu is that big an issue for shows."

New Deer's social media pages were targeted by disgruntled competitors. One, Kerri Yule, wrote: “Why are we to follow the rules of British Horse Racing for an agricultural show? Last time I looked at my horses neither were eligible to race.”

Responding to the row, the committee said that it was 'common practice' for horse competitions to require participating horses to be vaccinated against the disease.

“Given that equine flu is a potentially very serious condition and there have been confirmed cases in Scotland, the committee had no choice than to require horses participating in New Deer Show to be up to date with their flu vaccinations," said the committee. “We have a responsibility to safeguard, to the best of our ability, the welfare of the horses participating in our show. We can only apologise if this causes inconvenience to some of our exhibitors. The committee will continue to monitor the situation and liaise with our vets accordingly.”