The first thing I look for at a show are the conditions — is the footing OK and are the rings big enough? Here, both are excellent with championship fences and good courses. Clear rounds were at a premium, and you couldn’t batter out clears by tap, tap, tapping round.
The stables are close enough to the rings — which is good from the horses’ point of view — but the scheduling needs tweaking. Too many riders were in the International Stairway, Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) grade C and the age classes, putting them under pressure. The emphasis needs to be more on the national championship (which incorporated the Stairway). The timetable needs to be orchestrated so everything is done and dusted and the big class starts at 2.30pm with everyone watching.
Tradestands by arena two would encourage more spectators and atmosphere — especially those watching the age classes. The tall, solid barriers between the rings and the warm-up also need to be looked at. Open rails don’t work — horses find it distracting when another is cantering right next to the rails — but these barriers were too extreme.
The courses were up to height and Mark McGowan was strong in his build with tight times and questions — I had three goes and still couldn’t jump the last line of the grand prix!
Annabel Shields has been knocking on the door all year and Nigel Coupe is riding the crest of a wave — they both deserve the success.
Ref Horse & Hound; 17 August 2017