I really enjoyed the chance to jump my younger horses for four days at Bury Farm. It was nice to catch up with old friends and lovely to compete not too far from home.
What was even better was that the schedule included winter qualifiers for six- and seven-year-olds. If there were more series like this in Britain, it would give producers more incentive to stay here instead of travelling abroad with their young horses.
It’s good for horses to compete on a level playing field against their own age group. I also like the fact that the classes aren’t decided on double clears. Horses have to learn at some stage how to go against the clock and it’s up to the rider whether to go for a steady double clear or try to win.
It would probably help if the newcomers and Foxhunter series became age classes. I’d like newcomers to be for five- and six year-olds and have the Foxhunter series for six- and seven-year-olds. Foreign riders must wonder what on earth’s happening when they watch a final that’s supposed to be for novice horses and then in comes a 10-year-old followed by a 14-year-old!
‘The perfect start’
I’ll soon be spending four weeks at Vilamoura in Portugal. I like taking young horses on tours like this because the classes start with very friendly courses that don’t ask too many questions and increase in technicality over the shows.
Five-year-olds begin at around 1.10m and build up to 1.20 or 1.25m; the six-year-olds’ courses are from 1.25m to 1.40m; and the seven-year-olds start over 1.35m and finish in world ranking classes over 1.45m. These fences may sound huge, but because it’s a steady increase, horses learn and gain in confidence. It’s usually the perfect start to what all riders hope will be a successful season.
Ref Horse & Hound; 31 January 2019