British Skewbald and Piebald Association classes got Hickstead off to a flying financial start. I worked out that with more than 250 entries, these classes garnered revenue of around £34,000, so the decision to give the society a full day in the schedule continues to pay off.
However, I’d like to see some tweaks. The ride judge had to ride more than 90 horses — she did a great job, but it’s too much for one person. Retraining of Racehorses stipulates that when there are more than 20 entries in a class, there should be two ride judges who ride alternately.
This could cut class running times by a third, and as long as you have good ride judges — which is always the case here — each horse will be fairly assessed. Another way to save time would be for classes in which a ridden show is required to have a simple set show lasting no more than one-and-a-half minutes rather than a freestyle show.
This really was showing on a grand scale. There were more than 1,800 horses in the showing classes, with some competing in more than one.
The showground had recovered well from the Derby meeting, though I gather competitors in M&M classes were still unhappy about uneven ground in the River Lawn ring. The Bunn family has spent an enormous amount on improvements and there are more to come.
I used to hate having to come up over the bridge and through the trade stands to ring five, because it was like an obstacle course with pushchairs, dogs, children and all sorts. Now, there are separate purpose-built horse tracks all around the venue, which makes life easier and helps with hacking young horses around the showground.
I can’t understand why more showing societies don’t investigate using Hickstead. For instance, it would be a fantastic venue for the British Show Horse Association spring show.
Hickstead also ticks the boxes by staging so many classes for amateur riders. Some amateurs can and do take on professionals — and sometimes beat us, as happened here — but I know they really value having the amateur sections.
The new hunter weights judging system worked well, too. It removed the predictability and created an atmosphere and spectacle that could end up as good as Dublin show’s.
Maybe there should be three conformation judges as well as three ride judges, just to add to the fun.
Appreciation all round
I also appreciated the way cob class judges Frances Atkinson and Nigel Fuller shook every competitor by the hand and presented the rosettes. It made you appreciate the moment even more.
Finally, everyone who competed owes a big thank you to the stewards and officials who give their time for nothing. The stewards are always helpful and polite and I was sorry to hear of isolated incidents of rude riders.
Just remember, we couldn’t do it without them.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 August 2016