Opinion

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Observers certainly witnessed the highs and lows of showing at Olympia last month.

I was delighted to see Cadlanvalley Sandpiper take home the LeMieux British Show Pony Society Heritage crown at last, after coming so close on previous occasions, including standing reserve in 2012.

When judging the conformation section in 2014,

I awarded him my highest mark. He finished third and, along with the winner Moelview Prince Consort, they were the only ponies in my 41 to 50-marks range.

A former Horse Hero

Sandpiper (H&H, 29 June 2017) can be summed up in two words — charm and balance. He would have made an exceptional Beswick model. Instead, he adorns the front covers of all six children’s books in Olivia Tuffin’s The Palomino Pony series.

Congratulations also go to his rider and producer Katy Marriott-Payne, who secured a second fairytale win on the bounce.

In contrast, the other showing section reads like an Agatha Christie Christmas special, entitled The Case of the Black Chalk.

Lucy Ashworth’s Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd’s (SSADL) in-hand victor, Randall IV, was stripped of the award hours later, after breaking the “no make-up” rule. SSADL officials concluded that the product which was discovered on Randall’s legs was indeed “an oil-based product’’. Lucy vehemently denies this, but admits to using black chalk, which is permissible.

I felt sorry for everyone concerned in this high-profile situation, particularly for the eventual winners, Alice Stratton and Laithehill Pasha, as nobody likes to win by default and miss out on their special moment of glory in the ring.

The bigger picture

However, nothing could have prepared us for the reality check at the Liverpool International Horse Show when the devastating car park blaze caused the cancellation of the New Year’s Eve performance.

The facts are totally mind-boggling. I’m told that the fire reached 1,000°C and the total damage is estimated at £20m. About 1,400 vehicles were destroyed, except for a few on the roof level which are stranded, as there is no way of retrieving them.

Doesn’t this incident put all the negative issues we tend to experience in our showing bubble — such as moaning about the scores and being abusive towards the judges and our fellow competitors via social media — into perspective?

Bad presentation

Time and time again we read judges’ advice in these pages on how valuable marks are lost in the ring with bad presentation and yet it continues — apparently so at Olympia, with four Heritage judges to impress.

This time, Lizzie Briant and Tweetie Nimmo commented on some of the poor in-hand shows and Anthony Perkins, who co-judged performance with Joanne Griffin, added that many ponies were pushed out of their natural rhythm at trot.

Over “Twixmas”, Jane Makin (née Gledhill) told me all about her trip to Horse of the Year Show in 1969 with her white grey gelding, Stoatley Valentine. She prepared the 14.2hh show pony herself — exercising, bathing and plaiting him — to finish a creditable ninth place in the afternoon final judging. Not bad for an 11-year-old rider. Get inspired for 2018!

Ref Horse & Hound; 25 January 2018