A trip to Ireland is always exciting and this one proved no different. I was judging at the EquiFestival of Ireland in Cavan. Sadly I would have to say it was the calibre of people that made it, rather than the standard of horses. The standard was generally poor, but I did have some nice winners. By the time the supreme went in the ring at 11.30pm, the animals forward were a pleasure to watch. Well done to Alison Kirkpatrick, who was riding the supreme horse — he was a credit to you.
My co-judge was Susan Oakes of side saddle high jump fame. She proved to be equally a talented ride judge for astride and ladies’ classes — smashing person with plenty of knowledge and common sense. I would have no hesitation in putting her straight on the British panel.
I was judging alongside Allan Robertson, Russell Marks, Carol Cooper and Anne Leaver. We laughed our way through the day and night with timing competitions to get through the 38 championships for each section. I also like to think we brought a bit of glamour to the scene!
Up and away early the next day to get to Staffs Country Festival. I had changed my flight to get home to help my daughter Alice on her new rides and what a day we had. She started with the champion in the novice show hunter pony section with Lemington Nougat, who also jumped clear to finish second in the nursery stakes. Tynymor Twm Sion Catti was awarded the mini WHP champion for the second successive year — what a star he is. Cwllwenarth Freedom won the novice 12.2hh and a new ride for Alice on Jon and Cathy Hughes-jones Chiddock Excel won the novice 13.2hh and reserve champion.
Now that was worth 4hr sleep and a plane across the Irish sea for. It was made even more special as I don’t get Dad to many shows these days and he was there supporting and helping her all the way.
While I was sitting at Wimbledon last Monday, it dawned on me that it was traditionally the first day of the Royal Show, and for many years I would have been at Stoneleigh. I felt sad the show had gone and with it so many memories.
It took me back to the 150th anniversary year when I was reserve champion on Windy Ridge. I was gutted to say the least and I remember my eyes being pricked with tears (although I most definitely did not cry) at the disappointment.
Sometime later the judge on that day remarked to me how disappointed he was to see my emotion. It was being back at Wimbledon that reminded me of the story. I asked him whether he felt the same about the tennis players when they lose and sit with their head in their hands publicly showing their devastation at the loss. That’s different he replied.
Why is it different? The problem here was a lack of understanding between judges and competitors of exactly how important it is. Top-level showing such as the Royal Show isn’t just a day out — it is our Wimbledon.
We find the horse, break the horse, educate the horse, nurture the horse and most importantly we love the horse. How can we be expected not to have emotion? I love to see a great big smile on the winner as I know what it means, but I do fully understand disappointment.
Alice has been nominated for the Showing World Awards 2013, which is a great achievement in itself, but to read the short piece written about her and her smile made me very proud.