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At my teach-ins, it amazes me that people are so much more concerned with their ridden animals’ coats, weight and tack than they are with the way of going.

One lady enthused about her lead-rein show pony’s condition and her first question was, did I think the browband suited it? She only walked half a circuit before it fired off its little jockey. When I asked if she had ridden it, or asked another rider to school it, she replied that it was too sharp for her.

Rider safety must be paramount. I don’t care if a pony is hairy or a bit lean at the start of the season. It will naturally look its best in midsummer, as it would if it were out in the wild.

However, the showing calendar now spans most of the year and some people strive to have animals with a fine coat and in prime condition all year round.

A judge can see past these things and looks, above all, for the best animal with the best way of going.

The winter coat will shed and you can add condition with spring grass or more feed if necessary. However, without correct training, the way of going will not improve.

Instead of buying fancy browbands or cosmetic products, invest in a lesson with someone experienced who can help your child and pony to improve. Only through correct way of going can you expect to win rosettes — so get help and practise, practise, practise.

Tradition with a twist

Davina Whiteman is equally adamant about correct training, and it was the end of an era when she retired recently as chair of Ponies Association (UK). She followed in her mother Joan Lee-Smith’s footsteps, and their remarkable contribution developed many aspects of showing into what it is today.

Conversely, I was probably chairwoman for the shortest time in history. Due to a technicality, we could not immediately appoint Carol Cooper, so I had to stand in. Carol is now in place and brings a wealth of showing experience, enthusiasm and ideas. Some say that Ponies (UK) needs to get back to the good old days at East of England; sadly, times have changed and I doubt we will ever return to that family holiday feel with two rows of animals in every ring.

Nowadays, there are so many shows, each more “singing and dancing” than the next. All the new board can do is provide quality events with integrity and a great atmosphere to attract all competitors, professional and home-produced. We aim to combine traditional values with a modern twist.

Farewell Roger Stack

Regarding traditional values, I was at showman Roger Stack’s memorial, which was attended by those from the showing, showjumping and eventing communities. This signifies that Roger had a far greater insight than most.

We need to understand showing’s place in equestrianism overall. It has been the foundation for many medal winners across the disciplines.

Ref Horse & Hound; 9 March 2017