Journalist turns showing judge for the day

  • H&H's showing editor was invited to join the judging team at the North of England show at Arena UK. Find out how she got on...

    Do not, I tell my reporters, write about the weather. But I have to break my own rule — the storm that hit Arena UK as Frank Kane and I judged our final North of England Pony supreme on Saturday was only just this side of biblical.

    The day had been stiflingly hot (I know, I know, more weather) to the point that during the intermediate supreme, which we judged at around 12.30pm, I was starting to hallucinate. The surfaces at the Grantham venue [note to self, do NOT wear open-toed sandals if invited to judge there again] reflect the sun, virtually doubling its effect. That’s what it felt like, anyway. Standing in the middle of the ring, watching the individual shows, I swear I saw the white fence posts start to move…

    But not even the strong July sunshine could outdazzle the contestants. The Sporting Sam intermediate supreme, for a first prize of £1,000, was hot in every sense of the word. Frank and I struggled to find our top 8 because the class was so level. We loved a grey hunter, who did a fabulous show — but we both saw it buck in the go-round, so had to demote it.

    We eventually selected the hunter Louvaine Rooney for top honours, with the show riding type Fyrefly reserve. But not before we begged our magnificent steward Sue Williams to ask them to walk round one final time. It really was that hard.

    The Lilley mini supreme, which also carried a £1,000 first prize, was easier; not because the class was weaker, but because we both loved the Welsh section A lead-rein, Thistledown Van Der Vaart, as soon as he came into the ring.

    Our final supreme, the Butterworth £1,000 ridden pony, began at 4.30pm and the heat was oppressive — I was telling myself that on no account was I allowed to faint. But storm clouds gathered, the wind increased and it was a blessing when the rain began. Though lovely at first, as we were all so hot, it quickly became a deluge. Within minutes Frank, in his very smart suit, and I were soaked through.

    How I felt for the poor competitors, particularly the last three to do their show, who had to contend with thunder and lightning. Although a hunter pony should be steady to both — after all, you may well catch a storm out hunting — a couple spooked and spoiled their chances. It was a shame, because one of them had caught our eye and would have been in with a chance.

    Nonetheless, we were unanimous in our choice of supreme, Rotherwood Rainmaker, who won at Horse of the Year Show in 2012 and has taken the Dick Saunders title at the Royal International. I particularly liked a little hunter pony, although it was rather cresty so was moved down the line. But there was something about it — the elusive wow factor, perhaps?

    I loved my day of judging, regardless of the weather, and I realise now what a terribly hard job it is to do, especially when you have classes of 15 or 16 or more and they are all worthy contenders.

    It also gave me an opportunity to wear my rather spectacular hat, although I very nearly lost it on my way to the station when it fell out of the hatbox. I belted back to H&H Towers in case I’d dropped it there, but had to dash to catch my train up to Grantham. Distraught, I stuck my head round the door of a cafe en route, just in case someone had handed it in — and there it was. Thank you, whoever you are, and thank you to the Albion cafe too.

    My last horsey venture, to the Longines Global Champions Tour of London, had almost resulted in my falling under a tube train; this time, because of the near loss of my lovely hat, I came the closest I’ve ever been to having a heart attack.

    It’s true what they say — anything to do with horses carries a risk…


    Reports from the North of England Summer Pony and In-Hand and Mountain and Moorland Show will be in the magazine issue dated 25 July

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