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Cases of riders allegedly being too heavy for their ponies are a current hot potato. There may be an issue, but it would be very hard to tell if a rider’s weight had a direct impact on the animal and — short of having scales at every show — it would be very difficult to police.

Riding experience and skill need to be taken into consideration. I have some very light children who would ride far heavier than my older jockeys. The older riders might be heavier, but have light and established seats and good hands, making the overall impact on the animal negligible.

William Fox-Pitt is a great example. He is very tall and some might think that in theory, he could be too heavy for smaller horses. However, he has such an independent seat and light hands that I am sure some of his horses barely know he is there.

The weight issue has been raised with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) by the Showing Council — which is a BEF affiliate — and research is under way. However, we can’t rush any decision regarding new rules without the findings to back them up.

Meanwhile, all we can do to help the problem is training and more training to improve the standard of riding and thereby make the animals ultimately more comfortable.

When practice makes perfect

I watched much of the Olympics and the interviews with the athletes were enthralling. Hearing about the hours of practice they put in showed their commitment to their sports and explained how they achieved not only medals but personal bests.

I have long stressed the importance of training in our sport to improve the overall standard of riding, hopefully with the knock-on effect of achieving better results. I judged the best rider competition at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) championships and was pleased to see how the overall standard had risen.

I set the children a freestyle show and judged them on the harmony they had with the pony and their riding technique. I then invited parents and trainers into the ring to hear feedback. This was the type of dialogue I enjoyed as a child, with judges explaining what they thought I could improve. BSPS competitors seemed to like this far more than wading through a sea of numbers after the class.

Think before you post

I’m sad to see so much moaning about our sport on social media. In the old days we may have gone back to the wagon and griped to ourselves but nowadays issues are aired publicly in the heat of the moment.

This is unhealthy for our sport’s image. While a result can be disappointing, it is not life-threatening. Our sport is subjective, but you know that before you go in the ring.

Judging and stewarding can be thankless and if showing is to grow and flourish we need these volunteers to enjoy what they do and continue to offer their time and expertise. Before posting, please always consider if your comments are constructive and fair.

Ref Horse & Hound; 15 September 2016