The showing season has only just ended and already I’m hearing riders say that they have withdrawal symptoms. Think positive, because success in 2016 starts now.

I’m a firm believer that for some horses — and people — a change is as good as a rest. I love this time of year, which is all about starting youngsters’ education and ironing out schooling problems with older horses before they go into winter mode.

They say you should never go to sleep without settling a quarrel, so if you plan to give a horse a break, smooth out any rough edges before you do so. It means you finish on a good note, in a relaxed environment.

I often take younger horses to dressage and jumping shows, with an eye on their education rather than on winning rosettes. If a horse can walk, trot and canter a circle, he can manage a prelim or novice test, and it all helps teach him how to work in with other horses and listen to his rider in unfamiliar surroundings.

Similarly, horses being aimed at workers will go showjumping, where they’ll be asked to jump in a good rhythm but never pushed against the clock. They enjoy it, we enjoy it and horses gain valuable experience and confidence.

We’ve all had to accept changes this season: many good, some of which still need tweaking. It’s good that the Showing Council has gained a consensus from all the societies on safety hats; getting so many to agree is an achievement in itself.

BS/EN1384 standard hats, which many showing riders prefer, will be permitted throughout next year by all its member bodies. However, shows’ own rules take precedence. Many shows specify that PAS015 hats, which meet higher safety standards and always incorporate a harness, must be worn.

It’s further complicated by that fact that although riders have freedom of choice at Horse of the Year Show, when competing in qualifiers they are governed by the host show’s rules. This applies particularly to the county circuit.

Shows that listen

Regular readers will know that earlier this year, I criticised the Suffolk Show when a walkway clash between horses and cattle nearly ended in an accident. Riders and cattle handlers were vulnerable, so I’m pleased to report that show organisers listened to our complaints and have taken steps to make sure it can’t happen again.

Surrey County Show organisers also asked for input on how the show could be improved for riders. The result of that meeting is that next year’s show will give more space in which to warm up and better prize money in the championships, steps which should boost entries.

These are both wonderful county shows and it’s great to know that we have improved versions to look forward to. The organisers of Stoneleigh Show also promised to act on feedback from riders for 2016; it wasn’t the Royal Show reborn and there were teething problems, but it’s so exciting to be back at this venue.

Enjoy your Christmas and New Year. Next season will be here faster than you think.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 November 2015