Opinion

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Unsuitable and/or poorly explained individual shows are the hot topic in native pony showing circles. Many riders are fed up with ponies being asked to perform set shows that would be more suitable for hacks, and with the specifics of a set show being poorly explained.

To me, a native pony’s show should demonstrate that it can go in a forward and flowing way in accordance with its breed. So why has it become the fashion this year for judges to ask for set shows that don’t give riders a chance to show off their ponies’ natural paces?

I have got nothing against set shows, but some of the ones we have been asked to perform seem more like dressage tests and do little to highlight breed characteristics. For example, one large breed qualifier allowed for a total of 15 strides of trot, yet trot is these ponies’ natural pace and this should be taken into consideration.

All show animals should, of course, be well-schooled and balanced. However, I’m not alone in feeling that canter serpentines and rein-backs, which are some of this season’s on-trend requirements, are out of place.

If I were judging a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifier, I’d want to be able to go to HOYS and be proud of the pony I’d sent there. I can’t help feeling that by asking for hack-type shows, judges risk looking at their final marks and finding that the pony they wanted to win doesn’t actually head the final line-up.

We’re also getting confusion because judges are asking stewards to explain what shows are required and it’s being lost in translation.

It’s even worse when only the first rider in the line-up is told what to do, and the specifics of the show are not outlined to the entire class.

I’m not blaming stewards. Rather, I wish judges would address the whole line-up and give an exact explanation of what they want, or even post a copy of the required show in the collecting ring.

Exhibitors made to feel like criminals

I’ve just completed five shows in one week — the Hickstead Derby, Lincolnshire County, Northleach, Cheshire County and Royal Highland. If I were a horse I’d be classed as a welfare case.

Can anyone explain why there are so many HOYS native qualifiers crammed into such a short space of time?

I still have mixed feelings about Hickstead (report, p68). Riding in the championship in the main ring was again fantastic, but I still wasn’t impressed with the condition of the mountain and moorland ring, despite it being relocated.

On a positive note, we were greeted with smiles from helpful officials. It was a different story at Cheshire County (report, p76) where exhibitors were made to feel like criminals.

Lorries were searched on the way in to make sure no one had people without passes on board — not the welcome you want, and even more annoying for those who missed classes because they took so long.

Perhaps Cheshire should look at its allocation of passes, as the show is notoriously tight with them.

Ref Horse & Hound; 29 June 2017