Simon Reynolds: The unwashed and overweight *H&H VIP*

It was a shame that the mud was the biggest talking point of Royal Windsor this year. It’s such a fabulous venue and a show that is so special to many. Full marks to the organisers who worked tirelessly to keep the show running; it could have easily been cancelled.

Aren’t we lucky to have great all-weather working-in arenas and some surfaced rings? Once parked up, the only slight hassle was the walkways, which were churned up.

We saw some ingenious ways of keeping horses’ legs clean, including bin liners. I myself took some inspiration from this and wore two Tesco bags taped over my leather boots, much to the amusement of my fellow competitors.

Frayed tempers

On a more serious note, there was plenty of talk on social media about whether precautions should have been made, knowing the weather forecast, to lay the walkways with some sort of mud mats or Astro turf. How feasible and expensive this would be is something I’m sure the show team will be discussing in the future.

Most competitors just got on with it with a smile but, unfortunately, there were others whose tempers frayed and there were reports of abuse to the tractor drivers. Sadly, there was a backlog, but no one could control the weather. Surely it’s not unreasonable just to wait for your turn?

We were told to minimise movement in the lorry park and if people had done just that, then there wouldn’t have been such a problem. However, some were making futile attempts to drive out unaided and this resulted in lorries blocking exits, not to mention that there could have been a serious accident and damage to vehicles.

Slap-dash approach

Considering the muddy conditions, though, the majority of horses were still turned out to a high standard. This was in sharp contrast to some earlier shows this season where the weather was of no consequence, yet we saw some horses badly turned out, dirty and untrimmed. They looked like they had just been dragged out of the field, yet were awarded top honours.

Is it that Royal Windsor is seen as a more important show, so more effort is made?

To me, at every show, small or large, you should be striving for immaculate turnout for yourself and the horse. Of course, way of going and type are important, but the overall picture has also got to be right or it shows a lack of professionalism and a slap-dash approach. Miss World wouldn’t win looking unwashed or as if she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, so why should a show horse?

As a judge, we are reminded not to reward obese animals, yet I am dismayed to see the trend of fat horses and ponies emerging again, especially in the cob sections. Judges should be clamping down on this and professionals should be setting a good example. This is a welfare issue and if your horse is correct, it should not need to be overdone with weight.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 May 2019

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