It would be so easy to mention rain and mud as the lasting memories from the Royal International (RIHS) 2017, but alas, no one can do anything about the weather. In true British spirit, everyone just had to get on with it. It was a testament to all the upgrades made at Hickstead recently that the rings and walkways lasted as long as they did. The security and ground staff should be applauded for being efficient and polite while managing difficult conditions on the stable field.

I mentioned in a column recently that I felt some old showing values had been lost in the ring and that children needed to be keener to impress. I was delighted to see that this year the judges pulled in most of the classes after the initial go- round. This kept children alert throughout the class, especially ones lower down the line if they felt that many before them hadn’t gone well.

It is also good to see how the children pulled in at the top of the line managed to keep their poise under pressure — a very good skill to possess if you are to have any longevity in the show ring.

Thinking is good

The other very positive move was the decision that there were no set shows in the pony classes. This meant children had to understand and play to their particular animal’s strengths.

I heard discussions outside the ring such as “mine has a great walk and I know I can pull off a good gallop”, and “I’m going to show off his big trot”.

It’s about time that children were thinking about their ponies and actually showing them, not just trundling around doing the same show as the one before.

This format really worked at Hickstead and it was brave of RIHS to do it, especially given such tight time constraints. It just shows that with efficient judges and stewards you can do away with set shows and still not run over time.

We welcomed the class changes that moved the mini show ponies to Wednesday, rather than having them clash with the show pony sections on Sunday. However, the actual timetabling of these classes does need looking at for next year because having two lead-rein classes back-to-back meant frantic outfit-changing for jockeys and leaders, leaving the collecting ring resembling a changing room at a Next sale.

The pony supreme came from this section, Seamoor Lady Derby. It must give the little ones such a confidence boost, which can only be a good thing.

But the other downside of the classes following on were that some of our smallest jockeys ended up being in the ring for almost four hours. As any leader knows, there is only so much “I spy” you can play to keep them entertained.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 August 2017