Robert Walker: With show ponies, I take it on the chin *H&H VIP*

Opinion

It might have been a few weeks back, but I must say, “What a Windsor!” The conditions certainly made it one to remember. I felt so sorry for the organisers, who try every year to make it a competitor friendly event. They really did keep the show on the road.

People are still increasingly concerned about low entries at various shows across the country, especially in the Royal International (RIHS) horse classes. I have seen social media posts, judges and competitors ask: why is no one in them?

In my opinion it is simply because there are too many. Already we can enter Hickstead qualifiers for the 2020 final! There is so much choice, especially at the area shows — there might be three shows within a 70-mile radius on the same weekend.

This can often give the impression that there aren’t enough horses, but in fact there are just too many qualifiers. With some hunter and hack classes having no entries, shows will soon stop holding certain horse sections. These days, a RIHS class of four lightweight hunters is considered healthy. It’s not necessarily the shows’ fault and there certainly isn’t a lack of quality horses, but perhaps the societies need to stop giving so many qualifiers out.

In an attempt to boost numbers, I am pleased to see many shows running unaffiliated novice classes for competitors who aren’t necessarily members. It’s a great incentive for local and grassroots riders. Some have complained about the lack of rules in these classes but I say let’s fill the ring before we worry about the rules. People might have a go at these and then be inspired to enter some qualifiers the next season.

Pony politics

For the past few seasons I have been more involved with the pony side of showing with my two children.

The format of the classes really does make for a different experience and I’ve had to learn to adjust.

I try and be more relaxed about the outcome and take it all on the chin, as sometimes the use of marks can make for random results. Sometimes, a pony pulled in right down the line can come up to win.

For me, if I make a good job of the pull in, unless the top few messed up their shows or had a blaring conformation fault — elements that should be few and far between in qualifiers — my initial line up would not change drastically. I near enough have the final result after the go-round.

It would be nice to see pony classes judged in the same way as horse classes, and it would be interesting to see if the results are more in line with the original pull-in.

Marks shouldn’t be taken to heart. A single number doesn’t explain anything and if they are used correctly, the scores should only place them in an order; it’s all relative. Judges explaining why a horse or pony is placed in a certain position is more beneficial, so don’t be offended if your pony is on 25 one week, and 45 the next!

Ref Horse & Hound; 6 June 2019

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