Opinion

Contesting a supreme championship at the Royal International (RIHS) takes a cool nerve and the confidence to go all-out and impress the judges. This year’s finalists were top class, and Oli Hood can be really proud of taking the title on Diamonds Are Forever.

It wasn’t just that this lovely riding horse stood supreme last year, but that Oli had taken over the reins from his father, Allister. Taking the ride on someone else’s mega-successful horse — even when you’re keeping it in the family — is more difficult than competing one you’ve worked with from the start.

The pony supreme was just as nail-biting. It’s rare for identical marks to prompt a ride-off, but without taking any credit away from Isabella Whittle and show pony champion Moluccas Bengal Beauty, native pony enthusiasts were thrilled to see Matt Cooper triumph on the athletic Highland, Benbreac Of Croila.

What a pity that working hunter pony champion Susie Eddis missed the chance to contest this supreme on Castle Bay JJ. A fallen branch put a temporary halt to proceedings in the workers ring and schedule times couldn’t be altered because of televising arrangements; even the Bunn family’s skills couldn’t find a way around that.

The Hickstead team pulled out all the stops to provide great going, from watering the ground to moving jumps frequently. They couldn’t have done more, and competitors appreciated the constant supply of water for horses and humans and the invitation to remove jackets while standing in line.

Strewn with heaven knows what

It was a show to remember. Unfortunately, one memory is a load of rubbish — and the organisers couldn’t be blamed.

How can competitors leave a showground and lorry park strewn with drink cans, bottles, food wrappers and heaven knows what else? One of my owners and I were walking around a collecting ring picking up discarded bottles and cans.

This isn’t acceptable anywhere, let alone in an environment where such rubbish may cause injury. When we left the showground early on the Monday morning, there were even discarded tents.

Sadly, I’m told there was a similar situation at the New Forest show. It takes so little effort to put rubbish in a bag and take it home, so why behave in such a way?

Hot weather and hard ground have called for extra vigilance on horse welfare. In general, judges have been great. Course-builders build according to the conditions they are faced with and judges should apply the same principle when judging on the flat, asking only for a slight extension rather than galloping.

The Showing Register specified no galloping inside or outside the ring, so full marks there, and there was no galloping at the Festival of Hunting, either. Most riders have been careful when warming up and for one show where we knew the ground would be hard, I had horses worked in the school before leaving so they just needed to be walked around before they entered the ring.

Over-cautious? I don’t think so. Why risk ruining a horse for the sake of one day?

Ref Horse & Hound; 16 August 2018