OPINION

When the “Beast from the East” hit the UK, show organisers were slammed on social media whether they went ahead or cancelled. They were damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t.

I understand why some organisers carried on. How do you reschedule the venue, judges and stewards when the showing calendar is so full?

Competitors must understand that in such circumstances, they cannot expect refunds on entries. The alternative is to hedge your bets and pay higher on-the-day fees.

Quality training

Chairman of The Showing Council David Ingle and my fellow H&H columnist Simon Reynolds recently underlined the need to exercise caution when choosing a trainer.

I agree; we wouldn’t send our children to a school where teachers weren’t professionally trained, so we need to think the same way about tuition on their ponies.

Whatever your sport, you won’t improve without good training. This is often overlooked in showing and people think they will get better just by practising, but if you don’t have the right direction, you might be practising the wrong things and reinforcing mistakes. Teach-ins are clearly popular. Mixed clinics are a great way to acclimatise your animal to an environment similar to the show ring.

However, there will be different levels of experience among riders and animals, and you may have participants who don’t know each other. You must have an experienced, competent person in control.

Before signing up for training, ask some key questions. Is the trainer qualified, either through recognised qualifications or a proven training CV? Are they insured to teach? Do they hold current first-aid and safeguarding certificates?

Ensuring these are in place gives your child the best possible chance to improve and keeps him or her as safe as possible.

Hands matter more

Finally, we’ve had controversy over bitting, with judges and producers giving their views on whether some designs are suitable for ponies (H&H, “When it’s a bit too much…”, 15 March). I believe that while it’s essential to find the right bit for any partnership, correct schooling and riding has more influence than what’s in the pony’s mouth.

Equally, I disagree with the notion that the Wilkie bit — singled out for particular criticism — sets a pony into an outline and doesn’t allow it to go freely. It would be more likely that tying them in with fixed side-reins would produce that result.

I sometimes use a Wilkie bit in the ring, but it is correct schooling at home that produces correct muscle development.

Ultimately, riding from the leg and having an independent seat with good hands achieves the best results.

There are no short cuts — which brings us back to training.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 April 2018