Opinion

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Debates have been raging about riders too big, too small, too young, etc etc. Surely let’s have some common sense here. It all boils down to horse and rider suitability and capability and, I must be honest, there are much bigger issues that need addressing in our sport.

If anything came out of the “age debate”, surely we should be encouraging our young riders and preparing them properly so they are equipped to take the next step into horses. Intermediate classes were started by the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) to act as a stepping stone into adult classes for riders up to 25 years of age. It’s a wonderful concept, if not a little comical that we are still calling a 25-year-old a child.

I do believe, however, that this class is slightly flawed. Surely the judging of these classes should mirror the horse classes and have a ride judge. The art of setting a horse up for a judge to ride is completely different. It seems to me that the reason some pony riders fail to make the transition into horses is that they do not understand how to produce their animal for a ride judge.

My biggest bugbear is the well-coined phrase “it’s more of an intermediate” when describing an animal. Surely in the intermediate show hunter class they should be capable of doing a small hunter class? Equally, the small intermediate show riding type should also be a small hack. I’ve noticed the BSPS has its own ride panel, so why aren’t they used in intermediate classes with a mixture of horse panel judges?

The same should be applied for intermediate working hunter classes. I know that more of these jockeys probably compete in horse workers as well, if only to get a second round of jumping in at the finals, but still, they are making the leap. Intermediate working hunter pony jockeys are more than capable of jumping open horse tracks but it is sometimes in the ride section where they fall short.

Stepping stone

All credit to the young adults who do compete in horse classes — and there are lots of very good ones. We have seen some fantastic graduates come out of pony classes and the fact that members want to stay as long as they can in pony societies speaks volumes. They are great societies and really do encourage the kids.  My only point is that we lose a percentage after they finish their pony years.

Nigel Hollings, vice-chairman of the British Show Horse Association and executive council member of the BSPS, told me that intermediate classes have proved to be a successful stepping stone. He would rather see the ride element be introduced as a new competition rather than as an addition, which would alter the current format.

After speaking to Nigel at length, I can see his concerns and we agreed that the way forward could be a trial pilot class launched to test the waters, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 may 2017