Sitting by the ring, watching one young rider after another misinterpret a steward’s instructions on performing a set show, got me thinking. When a set show is required, why can’t it be posted at the collecting ring or available in the show secretary’s office beforehand?

In showjumping, the jump-off course is pinned up in the collecting ring. Showing could follow suit and make life easier and simpler for everyone.

Look what happens in our sport: a judge pulls in an initial line-up and the first rider is immediately under pressure. So many times, the first one to go makes a mistake and other competitors — who have been watching rather than listening — follow suit. Being able to study and learn a set show beforehand would allow riders to prepare and show off their ponies or horses to their best advantage, and help classes run smoothly and to time.

I always enjoy hearing other competitors’ suggestions, and someone approached me recently with what I think is an excellent idea. The rider suggested that when there is a change of judge for a class, there should automatically be a window of at least 24 hours for competitors to substitute for another horse, if necessary.

Sometimes, judge changes mean that you can no longer ride the horse you intended because the judge has a connection with it. There are also times when you know it isn’t worth competing under a particular judge as he or she doesn’t like the horse you’ve entered.

That’s not a criticism of judges: showing is subjective, which means some judges will always prefer a particular type or way of going. You get to know judges’ tastes and when you make your entries, there’s no point in setting yourself up for failure when past experience tells you that someone has reservations about a particular horse.

Masterpieces of design

I’ve just come back from Royal Dublin Show, one of my favourite horsey breaks. I look forward to seeing some of the purchases that are heading over here come out on our showing circuit.

Huge congratulations to the British Connemara Pony Society’s international Connemara performance hunter team, who came a close second to the Irish team. Talk about taking coals to Newcastle — there were only one-and-a-half marks between the two.

Chef d’equipe Debbie Nickson tells me that the course was big and bold with a bogey fence that caught out every rider save one. That was Britain’s Victoria Jones on Garry Knight, with the only clear round of the competition. What an achievement.

Pats on the back, too, for Amy Smith on Laburnum Richard, second-highest placed individual; Claire Somerset, British team trailblazer on Golden Island Star and Henrietta Horsley-Gubbins on the five-year-old Hazelrock Rebellion. And let’s not forget the helpers and supporters, who gave the team such support.

All the workers’ courses were masterpieces of design. There were enough questions and they rewarded bold horses and riders, but also encouraged a forward, flowing style. Classes were a pleasure to watch, and in the four-year-old class every horse had its ears pricked with enjoyment — just how it should be.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 20 August 2015