A SCOTS town has slapped a weight limit on its “honest lad and lass” – in case they hurt the ceremonial horses.
Musselburgh, East Lothian, has conferred the honour on a local man or woman for the past 78 years in a tradition which culminates in a horseback ride around the town.
But a 16-stone weight limit has now been imposed on candidates amid fears over the welfare of the animals during the six-hour ceremony.
Musselburgh – known as the “honest toun” – is seeking nominations for the 2014 honest lad and lass, who must be unmarried, “of good character”, over 18, and prepared to act as unofficial ambassadors for the community.
The current “honest lad”, Callum Buchan, is well-built but there is no suggestion that he, or “honest girl” Laura Paterson, harmed their mounts during the 2013 ceremony.
Honest Toun Association secretary Vickie Davitt said the weight limit had been introduced by the riding stables, which would train candidates and provide them with horses for the ride.
She said: “It’s a horse welfare issue that we need to make people aware of.
“It is something that now seems to be filtering through the stable industry as a whole as people become more aware of animal welfare.
“It is also about general fitness.”
She added: “Candidates have to commit to learning to ride to a certain standard and if someone is overweight with a bad diet they are not going to be able to cope with a six-hour ride around Musselburgh.
“We are just putting it out there to say to people this is what the stables are saying to us.”
She said the new rules were not related to the current lad or lass but were “completely from an equine welfare point of view.”
She said it would be “interesting” if someone over 16 stone challenged any ban on them running, and suggested they may have to make their own arrangements for supplying a horse which would bear their weight.
The July riding festival sees around 125 horseback riders trotting through the town, and includes a section where the honest lad and lass must gallop or canter along the town’s beach
Marjory McNaughton, owner of Edinburgh and Lasswade Riding Centre, which supplies the horses, said the 16-stone weight limit was imposed on all the stable’s riders.
She said: “Anything heavier than that is really too much for the horse to carry, bearing in mind that these Border common rides can be six-hour rides.
“It can strain their backs and give them sores.”
The honest lad and lass of 2014 will be elected in April this year.
Candidates must show they have a link to the area and are of “good character.”
A recent Scottish Government study found 27% of adults in Scotland were obese, with the number of overweight adults increasing from 52% to 62% between 1995 and 2012.
In 2002 Musselburgh’s honest lad had to resign after he faced charges of attacking a police officer.