Opinion

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Some animals appear at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) season after season and are always in the placings. It is a credit to them because, while they may change hands — and this applies particularly to ponies — they retain the quality and conformation to qualify each year.

There are a select few who not only appear every year but also take the top spot. This time I think there were more repeat winners than ever before — and that’s just in the ponies.

Thistledown Van Der Vaart claimed the mini mountain and moorland (M&M) championship for the third year running and went on to stand Ruckleigh School supreme pony of the year. Townend Schubert marked his third consecutive win in the Fells and Dales section. In workers, both Cashel Bay JJ (plaited) and Gwerniago Gethin (M&M) scored two years on the trot. Millwood Kaiser Chief won the 133cm show hunter pony for the second year running. Archwood Romeo Gigle headed the 138cm show ponies for the second time — and added the section title — while our own Litton Enterprise, winner of the 148cm show ponies last year, led the part-bred section this time.

People grumble that it would be nice to see someone different win, but my take is completely different. The results prove these animals are not one-hit wonders, and shows the calibre of the judges, who can agree on the quality of the ponies, correctness of their conformation and way of going.

But producing an animal to keep it at the very top of its game is a challenge, and there are always a few green-eyed monsters who hope that today is going to be the day one is knocked off its pedestal. That day is inevitable, and it’s good for the sport because it means it stays fresh and keeps the competition alive.

Meanwhile, these ponies should be applauded for their quality and consistency, ensuring we remain world leaders in the breeding and production of the show animal.

Points system initiative

The LeMieux La Liga points competition was set up to track the results of exhibits during the season and honour those who have performed most consistently. This could be developed into a different system that gives everyone something to strive for.

All animals would start out in a league but when they qualify for HOYS they are removed — qualification is reward enough — so only non-qualified exhibits remain. The winner of each section could be awarded a wild card for HOYS. This would recognise those who were consistent but just missed out, and would keep numbers high at the qualifying shows because everyone would be in with a chance up until the last one.

Before HOYS I bought a Fitbit to see how much walking I do throughout the week. I walked 94 miles. Unless the thing is faulty, that means I have completed more than three marathons — thank goodness it’s only once a year.

Ref Horse & Hound; 12 October 2017