Judging conformation at the final of the SEIB Search For A Star series was a delight. The quality and standards have soared over its 22 years and this year proved again that amateurs can have professional standards and attitudes.
This series is one of the best things in showing and reaching the final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) has become something every amateur should aspire to. Every professional starts as an amateur, which is something those who complain about professionals “blocking” their chances should remember.
Complaints that riders qualified horses for HOYS and deliberately didn’t take them — particularly in the lightweight hunters — were ridiculous. For example, we had three qualified; one horse was sold before HOYS and another had stitches in its leg.
There was also an amateur rider who couldn’t compete, again for a genuine reason.
In the maxi cobs, one rider apparently withdrew because a horse suffered an allergic reaction. With horses, things happen.
And if they happen at the pinnacle of the season, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Getting a ticket to HOYS isn’t a right. Every year there are horses that you expect to see there, but don’t qualify because they have a run of second places. I don’t know whether to be amazed or amused by riders who assume that every time we take a horse out, it wins. We don’t just bring home red rosettes; there are plenty of pink and brown ones, too!
My amateur dream
If you and your horse have the right attributes, you will get there. You’ll never forget your first qualification; mine was at Lincoln county show on a 13.2hh called Pendley Wizard and, as an amateur showing family, we couldn’t believe it.
Those born into the professional showing world still have to earn their places. I was talking to a fellow professional and saw how hard his son worked every day on the yard. He was achieving his own success not because he was handed top rides on a plate, but because he was learning his job through dedicated graft.
Even if you get there, things don’t always go to plan. The HOYS atmosphere is really unique, so here’s a suggestion for 2019 — courtesy of my husband, Chris Hunnable. Calling in the top ten in reverse order heightens the atmosphere, but means those at the top have to stand for ages to get their rosettes — so why not revamp the system?
If every horse got its rosette as it was called forward, the excitement would remain but the waiting time would be reduced.
There’s a fine line between sparkle and going over the edge, but while manners are important, we can’t expect show animals to stand like police horses, especially if they have to stand through nine rounds of applause before getting a winner’s rosette.
How many advanced dressage horses would stand perfectly at the end of a test for the length of a HOYS presentation? Not many, and they don’t have the same distractions.
Ref Horse & Hound; 1 November 2018