This year’s Royal International (RIHS) will be remembered for — among other things — extreme weather, which went from baking to a British weather reality check in the form of a day-long downpour. Hats off to the organisers, who had done a fantastic job of watering all the rings to keep them in the best possible condition.
With more than 10 million litres of water spread before the event and every ring being watered every night during it, I would not have wanted Hickstead’s water bill. However, it worked, and while ground conditions were firm, they were far better than most had expected.
Throughout the show, the polite and friendly ground staff did an amazing job. Little touches such as bringing competitors, grooms, stewards and judges iced water in the ring were thoughtful and most gratefully received.
The decision not to introduce set shows must have made it challenging for the ring stewards to keep everything running to time, but made for far more interesting classes for both competitors and spectators. It meant that the children had to plan their shows to take into account their own animals’ strengths and weaknesses.
This made the riders far more accountable for their own success or failure. In turn, this will hopefully make jockeys hungry to try their hardest in both sections and look as if they actually want to win the class.
Last year I mentioned that the galloping, particularly in the Equi-Trek ring, was becoming a real health and safety issue. This was because some children were completely out of control after the change of rein as their ponies anticipated the extension.
This year, the race-track phenomenon once again prevailed, and I saw several riders completely out of control and/or being deposited.
I would not want to omit the gallop, as it is such a key element of the RIHS experience and the rings lend themselves to it so well.
Perhaps a way around this would be to gallop prior to the change of rein or switch reins so that they are galloping up the back. Either way, the children being in control must be a priority. The organisers’ decision to hold the lap of honour on the right rein was a really positive step in ensuring that the children were safe and could enjoy their success.
Aa always at these championship shows, everyone experiences highs and lows. This year, gaining rosettes, let alone concern over their colour, was put into perspective for many in the showing community who lost a dear friend in Andrew Bailey-Machin after a tragic accident.
The funeral took place a few days before the RIHS and the showing fraternity turned out in huge numbers.
It is at times like this we should remember that while it is always nice to win, especially at these big shows, we should value and enjoy the whole experience and the company and friendship of our fellow competitors — for no one knows what is around the corner.
Ref Horse & Hound; 9 August 2018