Opinion

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Organisers, riders and societies must work together to support mid-season county shows. Entries in hack, hunter and riding horse classes have plummeted and, if we don’t use these opportunities, we’ll lose them.

One reason for a mid-season slump is that the first qualifiers are in March rather than, as used to be the case, in May. We’re all eager to chase those golden tickets rather than risk leaving it until later in the year.

Another is that many riders who qualify early then limit their horses’ outings. That’s understandable, too.

Some organisers are missing a trick by not taking entries on the day. Several riders have told me that they didn’t qualify as early as they had hoped to and would love more on-the-day opportunities, even if they had to pay higher entry fees.

More classes for four year olds and novice workers would help. When there are so few opportunities to give them experience at county level, we have to hold them back from county shows until they’ve gained experience elsewhere to cope with open classes.

I wish the Royal International would bring back its four-year-old hunter class. Many of us aimed horses at this and it encouraged the staging and support of four-year-old classes at other shows, as I’m sure would happen again.

Making that step up

Could societies do more to promote day tickets? There are riders with nice horses who don’t want to show on the circuit all season, but would love the chance to compete at their own county show.

If you’re unsure about making the step up, get professional help. Most of us enjoy helping riders progress and we all know we must keep competitors coming through the ranks if showing is to thrive.

Riders in the intermediate classes need to spread their wings and compete in open classes at county level. Intermediate classes were designed as a stepping stone between pony and adult classes, not as a refuge.

Show organisers could help by scheduling intermediate and open hack, small hunter and riding horse classes on the same day, therefore making the open classes available to intermediate riders who can’t compete over two days.

The amateur debate

Amateur classes are often well-supported, but I’d like to see societies reassess their definitions of what makes an amateur — not just to attract more people into county level showing, but to make life fairer. For instance, currently, anyone paid to teach in a riding school or to work in a racing or livery yard is classed as a professional.

Many who come into these categories will have no experience of riding in the show ring and some may never have owned a horse. Is it fair that they don’t count as amateurs, yet others with much wider experience and knowledge of showing do?

I admire the amateurs with professional standards, whose results often match the pros. I’m not implying that they don’t deserve their amateur status, but the playing field needs levelling to make it fairer for all competitors.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 June 2018