The Horses of Appleby Fair
Heidi M Sands
Each June the gypsy, Romany, and travelling community converges on the sleepy Cumbrian town of Appleby where for a few days the horse is king.
This traditional horse fair is probably the oldest in Europe and certainly the largest. Here the river Eden flows through an area known as The Sands where onlookers gather to see riders wash and prepare their equines as they have done for centuries. Along the ‘flashing lane’ crowds assess the potential of horses for sale, from traditional cobs to Shetland ponies. Here horses are paraded at speed to attract potential buyers. There is also an abundance of horse-drawn vehicles, the most recognisable of which are the bow-top caravans, highly decorated in the traditional style. Up on Fair Hill stalls sell all manner of tack, saddlery and decorated crockery. This is a spectacle that attracts thousands of spectators. Heidi Sands’ photographs evoke the glamour and vitality of the fair, the beauty of the horses and the distinctive characteristics of the people who own and ‘flash’ them.