Rebecca Penny: ‘Manners maketh man’ *H&H VIP*

It goes without saying that during the height of spring we undoubtedly witness an increase of ill-mannered stallions and colts. This isn’t just apparent in ridden classes, but it also applies to many in-hand exhibits.

While I appreciate we are slap-bang in the middle of the covering season and testosterone levels are sky-high, I don’t believe we should be making any exceptions for these “boys”. I’ve seen too many cavorting in line, fully drawn, climbing all over handlers and making a general nuisance of themselves.

Not only does it upset other animals standing in close proximity, but it’s also a potentially dangerous situation and those misbehaving should be penalised accordingly — or even dismissed if they are creating a situation that could put others at risk.

In some cases, ring layouts can aggravate the situation. With many of the major qualifiers now being held on a surface, we are faced with large numbers forward and fairly limited space. You will often find that the conformation phase takes place behind the line-up of ponies, leaving very little room.

Competitors are forced to walk within two or three feet down a line of 20-plus pairs of hindlegs, the majority of which are stallions in mountain and moorland classes. Surely anyone can see that this is potentially dangerous on so many levels?

Only last week I had a very narrow escape myself when a pony kicked out. I have to admit that my heart skipped a beat as I felt two hooves skim the peak of my hat.

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to escape the blow, but the next person may not be so lucky.

Sportsmanship

While on the subject of manners, I recently attended the Northern Ireland Festival in an official capacity. I have to commend not only the organisers for running a spectacular show, but also the competitors for displaying such wonderful sportsmanship. It was uplifting to see classes full to the brim and people really enjoying their ponies.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was seeing riders on the back line actually applauding their rivals when called out for the final placing.

Is there room for a training class?

In reference to Julie Templeton’s column (opinion, 9 May) regarding taking young ponies to ride round at shows, is there room in schedules for a training-type class?

Combinations wouldn’t be judged, they’d simply go through the motions of a class, sticking to the usual format by performing a go-round followed by a show. You’d pay your entry fee, as in any other class, but it would remove the pressure of going into the ring to compete.

It would be a great way of giving young horses that extra bit of mileage before they hit the novice circuit. The training stakes classes in working hunter pony ranks have become increasingly popular, so perhaps a flat equivalent could take off in the future.

Ref: Horse & Hound magazine; 30 May 2019

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