Robert Walker: Where has the prize money gone in showing? *H&H VIP*

Opinion

I’m fortunate to be seeing in the new show season with a string of lovely young horses. Just this morning I’ve sat on four fresh-faced novices we are set to showcase this year.

Of course, I’ve seen many riders’ new horses on social media already. It’s commonplace these days to have assessed your competition on Facebook prior to an outing.

I’m very blessed to have some great sponsors behind me. One of the only ways we can successfully promote them is through social media. It’s often a requirement for a sponsorship deal as they like to share pictures and posts on their pages.

We hear time and time again at society AGMs that we should be wary of these social media channels and stay away from them, but at the end of the day, they are here to stay.

I have a Shire horse coming from Dubai in the next few months — a new venture for us — and the only way we were able to show the owner our work and team was through our social media pages.

Nevertheless, I do feel that some businesses — such as on-site photographers — must struggle. It costs nothing to take a digital picture on a mobile phone. For many, getting likes on a Facebook photo is now worth more than having a printed copy of a picture on the mantelpiece to keep.

Return of the pros

While this time of year is often about the young horses, I do enjoy seeing the more experienced rides coming out again for another season. Back in the day, you would never have a horse out for more than three seasons. A horse would do his job and then perhaps change disciplines or retire and we would move onto the next lot.

But today it is possible for a horse to have several seasons at the top of the line. As long as they aren’t flogged round the circuit on hard ground, it is lovely to see.

Look at Katie Jerram-Hunnable’s Dunbeacon, who was still winning championships at 15, and our 14-year-old Party Time, a Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) small hunter winner — he is certainly doing less, but he still loves his job and goes around the school with his ears pricked.

A more negative trend I have seen of late is the increase in entry fees at shows, coupled with a decrease in prize money. I’m sure this is down to levies taking too much out of the fees, forcing shows to increase the charge, but it really does put a dampener on proceedings.

While none of us go into the sport for prize money, it’s a nice gesture at the end of a class and if you win, your winnings should certainly cover the entry fee.

A few shows have even started a policy whereby if there are only a certain number forward in the class, only the winner or perhaps top three will be given prize money. If this is something they are going to do, surely entry fees in these classes should be decreased?

Our yard will be no different to anyone else’s at this time — aiming at Royal Windsor. This show has undoubtedly become the HOYS of May. It’s a spectacle we all aim for with our young horses. It is so popular these days and marks the first time north and south will collide this season.

I’m sure this year will be another special occasion.

Ref Horse & Hound; 25 April 2019

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