Two new directors from the world of business have been elected to the board of Ponies (UK), following the retirement of founder Joan Lee-Smith and John Careless.

Life-time showing enthusiasts Ben van Praagh, whose support enabled Ponies (UK) to introduce mainstream classes for show hunter ponies and native workers, and Jon Phillips, owner of Young Dragonara and other successful working hunter ponies, were appointed at the recent AGM.

“In these difficult commercial times, when litigation is rife, I hope to use my business experience to help put something back into showing after all the enjoyment I and my
family have had out of it over the years,” said Mr van Praagh.

Society chair Davina Whiteman warned that increased regulation as a result of
European Union membership has become a “serious challenge”.

She said: “Because of our growth and success, we now require the expertise to cope with such diverse subjects as landfill tax and the licences required to organise the funfair at the summer championships. This assistance is difficult to source from the voluntary sector, so we must fund training and professional advice to develop in-house skills.”

Despite continuing rises in overheads — particularly those related to insurance and related matters at the summer championship show — the society’s finances remain in a healthy state, and turnover topped £1m. The first Ponies (UK) West Midlands Show was voted a success and looks set for growth, but the Masters series has been cancelled for 2004 after incurring further losses.

A shortage of show organisers and affordable venues in the south is a huge problem, and could affect the security of the winter circuit as a whole, Mrs Whiteman warned.

“The number of centres who can afford to promote events that are not cost-effective is minimal, and has led to fewer opportunities in the south to qualify for winter championships,” she said.

“The majority of affiliated events for the winter qualifiers do not offer any prize-money, and this is a trend which will become the norm throughout the year. Rather than see sections being eroded from the programme, this option has now been given to 2004 organisers for in-hand and ridden classes.”

Members were urged to assist in “sourcing” new officials, but Mrs Whiteman warned that if the growing trend of rudeness and arrogance by exhibitors is not halted, fewer volunteers will be willing to come forward.

On the equestrian side, the Elite Trainers scheme will continue, with opportunities for “refresher” courses, and specialist discipline awards will be developed within the Elite riders network to cater for those wishing to concentrate on improving flatwork or jumping.

  • To read about Ponies (UK)’s recent Showscene conference, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 November).


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