Rebecca Penny: A fixation on stallions *H&H VIP*

Opinion

As always, the British Show Pony Society Heritage Championships ran like clockwork, despite the wild weather, which didn’t appear to dampen spirts. However, it made classes rather interesting at times — and you definitely needed a hardy native that wasn’t opposed to a bit of water.

I was very interested in a question raised online after the show, where an official was curious as to why mountain and moorland (M&M) classes were heavily populated by stallions that exhibitors had not previously used or had no intention of using for breeding. I have to admit that I’ve often wondered the same.

I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of us believe stallions have a natural advantage in the show ring because they have extra presence, but is that really true? And if it’s their sole criteria, does that not limit their chances later in life, if you want to sell the pony on? After all, not everyone has the facilities or the desire to keep a stallion.

Are we guilty of assuming that a judge will choose a stallion over a gelding or mare, even if the stallion is of a lesser quality? I’d like to think that star quality would shine through regardless of gender and I struggle with the concept that any knowledgeable judge would do that, but I do wonder if some breed societies need to have stricter grading criteria  in place. It’s interesting that in Connemara classes, you tend to see a much more even split of the sexes. Is this down to the grading procedures for this breed being among one of the strictest?

I’m not a breeder, but personally I like to ensure that my stallions are available for stud duties once they are established enough to combine these with their ridden career. If I had no intention of doing this, then I would have them cut.

‘He didn’t need any extra equipment’

If you need any persuading, the Heritage supreme champion was a gelding. The pony has so much presence and charisma, he didn’t need any extra equipment.

It’s odd that so many people are fixated on stallions but won’t consider a mare. And I probably wasn’t the only person disappointed to see that of the 18 ponies that went through to the M&M championship at Horse of the Year Show, there was not a single mare present — despite there being excellent ones to represent their breeds.

I’m also puzzled that once again, all the direct qualifiers for Olympia have been taken by large breeds. By my reckoning, that makes it three years in a row, yet the quality of the small breeds competing isn’t inferior to their large counterparts.

I’d like to see the Olympia qualification system revised slightly. Currently there are two ways to get a ticket — either by winning a direct qualifier or by a gaining a top-three place at a semi-final. This way, a pony can gain a place at Olympia without even winning a class.

Ref Horse & Hound; 25 October 2018