Opinion

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I don’t usually write about my own horses in this column, but must say that winning the overall supreme title at Royal Windsor, in front of The Queen and riding one of Her Majesty’s horses, was out of this world.

Special congratulations must go to the pony riders forward for staying cool. The supreme final judging came after the retirement of Nick Skelton and Big Star — and let’s face it, how do you follow that?

The atmosphere was electric as Nick came out and stayed that way as we went in. It felt as special as winning the supreme at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), and I never thought I’d say that.

Time is tight

There has been much discussion recently on the need for judges to pay equal attention to all competitors. Inevitably, this leads to claims that judges miss things, such as horses misbehaving.

Everyone pays the same entry fee and deserves the same scrutiny. The challenge is that big shows run to tight schedules and you must stick to them. Logistically, you divide the time allowed by the number in front of you; I try and allow a little leeway, but you don’t always have that luxury. Time allocation is important and is one reason probationary judges work alongside established ones.

You’re taught to use a long side as your window and watch every horse as it goes in front of you. If there are two judges, I like to see them focus on separate sides as horses walk and trot, then join forces on one side for the canter and gallop.

Nothing’s worse than a spinning judge. Someone who is trying to watch the whole ring misses more than they see.

Spectators might sometimes see glitches that a judge misses, but part of the art of showing is to set up your horse so that you’re at your best as you go past that window. With two judges, you have to work even harder.

Read the rules

On a more down-to-earth note, we’re often urged to read our rule books. Two great examples have just come up of why we should do just that.

First, many amateur riders think they have to qualify to take part in amateur classes for cobs, hacks, riding horses and working show horses at the Royal International (RIHS). However, these are direct entry classes, so if you meet the criteria and think you have a horse good enough to compete, go for it.

Second, the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse (R2R) series, which culminates in a final at HOYS, is open to horses who have raced anywhere in the world. The rules for this series are not the same as those for Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), so make sure you know the difference between RoR and R2R.

Finally, how lovely to learn that ring seven at RIHS has been transformed and named after its late director of showing, Roger Stack. Roger was a brilliant showman and horseman and this initiative means that the River Lawn — which wasn’t good enough — won’t be used.

Ref Horse & Hound; 1 June 2017