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Ring five at Hickstead, with its all-weather track, is fabulous and we’re lucky to benefit from all the money that has been spent on it. However, it’s fast becoming known as a left-handed race track when competitors are asked to gallop — this year, ponies and horses alike anticipated, resulting in accidents.

Four jockeys in the 133cm show hunter pony (SHP) class came off and there were also two rider falls in the middleweight hunters. Perhaps a way to minimise the risk is to gallop on one rein on the go-round, and on the other rein in the individual show. I noted that the ride judge in the lightweight hunters was very smart and did exactly this when she took them out to ride them.

In the pony sections, many riders were under-prepared. You can’t practise galloping on a hill in a manège — do your homework before coming to a competition like this where you know that the gallop is such an important element.

Many riders came off the corner too fast and had run out of steam by the time they reached the judges. On the other hand, we saw many riders who simply couldn’t stop. If you are out on the hunting field you must be able to stop or you’re in serious trouble. It’s about finding a happy medium.

Younger jockeys should take the opportunity to go and watch the adult professionals at shows like this and see what a proper gallop is. It’s not necessarily about speed, but about lowering and extending across the ground.

We see more and more that the go-round counts for nothing. If you pull in a class, you have decided your preferred order, but with the marks system we so often see that something comes up from nearer the end of the line to win. Should the judges be asking themselves how could it win when it
was drawn so low and the go-round is meant to be important?

Perhaps at these championship shows we should lose the marks and go back to a good old discussion between judges to choose the best combination in the class. It’s not a dressage test!

Beauty first

When I’m judging I want the most beautiful animal in the class to win regardless of whether or not there are minor errors in the show. These can always be ironed out by schooling, but presence, conformation
and movement cannot be changed, and we need to get back to judging these key factors.

The pressure when you are pulled in first is far more intense than when you are pulled in way down the line. If the marks system must stay, let’s award marks for the go-round — at least this would mean that judges are rewarding their preferred choice, ring craft and showmanship before the individual shows start.

 

Ref Horse & Hound; 4 August 2016