Opinion

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The old age amateur-professional debate rages on in the showing world. I personally believe this “divide” started when the amateur classes were introduced and, unfortunately, not everyone has taken the class inclusion as a positive, as it was clearly intended. It has, in the eyes of some, created an “us and them” scenario.

As fellow columnist Robert Walker mentioned in last week’s debate regarding who should ride a horse at the final, I would like to emphasize his point: “it’s the horse we should be judging, not the rider”.

When we look at who has qualified, there is a decent spread of amateurs and professionals. Of course, the likelihood of professionals having more horses at the final is inevitable as simply they show more animals than your average one-horse owner.

Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) do recognise consistent performers with the wild card qualifications and Le Mieux La Liga points award system, not forgetting awards for leading breeder and leading sire. I don’t think there is a lot more HOYS could do to envelope everyone, especially with the ever popular Search For A Star series.

We must start finding the good in showing, instead of looking for the bad. If we don’t start celebrating the plusses, of which there are many, we may always be at loggerheads.

Look at the past month or so. We have had a marathon of championship shows. I’ve counted at least seven, with fabulous evening performances and classes for everyone.

Looking on social media and in the various magazines, lots of people have been experiencing that “centre line” moment, regardless of whether HOYS is on the cards or not.

I suppose it begs the question, is HOYS the be all and end all?

Opportunities for all

There are more opportunities now for home-produced and amateur riders than ever before.

I am friends with lots of amateur competitors, especially those in the cobs and, as a whole, we all get on really well. I personally don’t see that there is any “divide” between us, in or out of the ring, and there is a mutual respect.

Amusingly, I said once, “If I’d worked harder at school, I’d have been a great amateur”. I think the perception that professionals think they are better or on the other side, that amateurs feel they need a helping hand and a lift to qualify, is nonsense.

It should be a level playing field and if you and your horse are good enough, you’ll qualify. Certainly at the moment we have some fierce combinations who are really ringing the bell.

Perhaps the reason why amateurs favour the working hunter sections is they perceive it as fairer? More likely is that the type of horse who can succeed in that class is more useful to the amateur on an all-year round basis, meaning they can do another job out of showing season, such as hunting or showjumping.

What the answer to this current divided state is, I really don’t know. What I do know, is that we need to be more upbeat in our approach.

Ref Horse & Hound; 27 September 2018