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Today we look forward to the new format for the Royal International (RIHS) ridden hunters. For the first time we will see three ride judges, one for each category, and one conformation judge. The main reason for this was that it is unfair for one judge to ride more than 90 horses in one stint. No judge is superhuman and the last class wouldn’t be given the same ride as the first.

Hunters will be judged primarily in ring five, as usual, followed by an exciting final in the main arena where the chosen ones will be ridden again by the other ride judges. It will certainly shake up the job and is very reminiscent of the Dublin format. It will be a test of strength and stamina and it should produce a worthy champion, as the RIHS hunter champion should be.

To stud or not to stud?

We’ve had the best and worst of British weather, from monsoons to heatwaves. It’s hard to know what to do for the best.

I was reading a very interesting article on the British Eventing forum about studs. Personally, I like to stud up on grass. I feel it instills confidence in horses, especially on hard, slippery ground, but on bottomless, deep going, it’s pointless. It’s all about selecting the right studs for the ground conditions — it is not a one size fits all. The article is definitely worth a read; FEI vet John Killingbeck and Andrew Mahon, resident farrier at Tattersalls, made some very viable points against shoeing and studs in a scientific manner, discussing anatomy and biomechanics. It’s something I will take on board.

I always ride on ground first to assess how the horse is coping and, personally, would stud a horse if I felt it was struggling and would benefit from some extra grip. You wouldn’t see a professional footballer without studs.

I do feel more people should be training on grass in order to teach a horse how to cope with a slip. Obviously hunting is the best education. A lot of people and horses are too manège trained and are like fish out of water in less than perfect conditions. You often see top showjumpers even studding on surfaces. Any edge they can gain on performance is crucial when the stakes are high. But are horses a lot softer now and therefore more prone to injury due to mollycoddling? Are some horses falling foul when highly trained on such technologically near-perfect surfaces?

If ever there was an article that stuck in my mind about bold training methods, it was Graham Fletcher reporting for H&H about the time Robert Smith took his top horse at the time, Marius Claudius, hunting. His reasons were to freshen him up, improve his fitness and boldness and help him cope with less than perfect going.

Lack of horsemanship always surprises me, when you see competitors working in their horses for hours on hard or bad ground and wondering why the wheels fall off. I would sooner have a horse a little fresh or saved for another day, than bring home a broken one.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 July 2016