Championship shows make the last weeks of the traditional season sparkle — many of us look on these end-of-term finals not just as practice runs for Horse of the Year Show [HOYS] but as special occasions.
I understand why some riders regard the British Show Horse Association National Championship Show as the most important date in their season. HOYS has a unique atmosphere, but you can’t beat the nat champs — as everyone calls them — for enjoyment and the competition is just as hot.
We go hoping to win, but we also have fun. This year was no exception, despite the torrential rain that meant riders competing outdoors could wring out their jackets. The pairs class brings a smile to every face and it’s great to see riders finding their ring partners at the show and pulling off great performances.
Organisers and helpers at all championship shows work hard to make them run smoothly. We mustn’t forget that they are volunteers who give their time freely, so thank you. It was also appropriate to hold a minute’s silence so that we could remember three special people whom we have lost over the past year — Sue Webb, Roger Stack and Valerie Millwood.
You can ruin a horse in a day
I always enjoy seeing novice horses at this show and winning a novice section is a high point. Some people asked why I didn’t contest the supreme with my novice cob; although I always try to support an end-of-show supreme, it wasn’t in this horse’s best interest.
You can nurse an established, experienced horse through a long day to an evening performance, but it can be different with a first-season four-year-old. Starting with the day’s first class and facing the razzmatazz of an evening supreme would have overfaced him, so we made our apologies.
Some may call me over-cautious, but you can ruin a horse in a day. Young horses are like young children — they get tired and grumpy and end up throwing their toys out of the pram.
You must know your horse. Some might light up amid the cheering and go to HOYS radiating presence; others need to finish while they’re still bright but relaxed so you can head to Birmingham knowing that they’re still confident and enjoying themselves.
I’d love to see a daytime novice supreme at the national champs, with the cob, hack and riding horse going head to head. Holding it during the day would make it easier to keep what are usually young horses fresh and happy, and it would attract spectators without ratcheting up the noise and atmosphere to end-of-show level.
Ideally, it would also be good to have a day between the British Show Horse Association hunter show and the national champs, to allow those of us at both to get horses home and turn things around. However, I realise that probably affects a minority of competitors.
Congratulations to all winners and champions and good luck to everyone heading for HOYS. Have fun — but before you go, check that paperwork and vaccinations are correct, because there’s always some poor person who gets turned away from the gate.
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 September 2017