I hope everyone’s had a good winter. It’s been a wet one! We’ve been lucky in Lincolnshire, but it was heartbreaking to see some scenes from Cumbria and other areas. Dealing with livestock is hard work at the best of times, but in flooding it’s near impossible. It was heartening to see the horse community pulling together and offering assistance, though, temporarily housing horses while things were sorted out.
While the ponies have been out competing on the winter circuit, we are just getting started with our horses. Preparing a novice for the show ring takes time and patience. You have to make sure they are ready mentally and physically — and practice makes perfect.
I spend a lot of time taking the lorry to various places so that they get used to travelling and working away from home.
I also like them to have a few different riders on board so that the horse doesn’t get used to just one particular rider.
Spend time altering stirrups and tightening girths while mounted, too, so the horse isn’t shocked when the judge suddenly reaches down to do it.
When I feel all bases are covered close to home, it’s time to venture to a show to ride round and eventually do a class. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and just go for it. I try and select a quiet ride judge for the first-timers, who we hope will ride sympathetically yet positively.
You have to make decisions with young horses on a day-to-day basis. On some days everything goes well, on others you experience hiccups. It’s never a disgrace to do just the initial go-round and then bring a young horse out if you feel they aren’t ready on that day. You can do a lot more harm than good to push them when they aren’t happy. And if you haven’t got your horse out yet, don’t panic — it’s a long season ahead.
Keep the sparkle
I visited my local Arena UK for the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) winter championships show last week and was encouraged to see some promising young jockeys. Some were ambitious in their individual shows and, as a judge and competitor, it’s good to see risks being taken. Sometimes riders feel there is danger in potentially making a mistake, so they ride protectively and all elements of showmanship and sparkle are lost.
The marks system doesn’t help, as little mistakes seem to be overemphasised and we lose sight of the bigger picture.
The atmosphere at the BSPS championships was good and upbeat despite the awful storm. Everybody still managed a smile, and there was a good balance between competitiveness and fun — Easter egg hunts, bonnet competitions and plenty of Easter eggs for prizes.
Encouraging youngsters into showing is a good thing. Children seem to be starting competitive showing earlier, and I think it’s great for them to be boosted when they show a genuine interest.
My son, Luke, can take or leave riding at the moment. He’s lucky to have a fabulous pony that will last him for many years, but he loves mucking out and grooming more than riding. He’s only two though — perhaps if we attached a steering wheel to the front of the saddle he would ride more.
It’s great to hear Allister Hood and Jayne Ross are on the mend. I would like to wish everyone a happy and successful season. Let’s hope the weather is kind to us.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 7 April 2016