Under the über-critical glare of the top-level show judge, good looks alone just won’t cut it. The difference between being quids-in or also-rans lies in the animal’s way of going. This must be visually pleasing, but also correct for the type of animal.
From the second an animal enters the ring, its performance is under close scrutiny. Sometimes, it is the only way to make a brown hunter, chestnut show pony or black native stand out from the crowd.
“Too often, the way of going is manufactured, resulting in ponies that are uncomfortable in the position they are expected to work,” warns leading pony judge Robert Parker-Jones .
“If they have good conformation, they need very little artificial production and, if left alone, they will perform well.
“Those with less-than-perfect conformation can be improved if ridden in a sympathetic and correct way.”
When it comes to way of going, each showing judge knows exactly what he or she wants to see, and what they don’t.
Here, 6 judges share their pet hates on the topic
1. Tim Wiggett
“An animal ambling into the arena looking disinterested, ears back, swishing its tail and giving the impression that it does not want to be there.”
2. Rachel Bown
“Welsh ponies — particularly cobs — being forced into unnaturally fast trots. They are invariably being put out of their natural rhythm, over bent, on their forehand and making a noise due to their windpipe being so constricted.”
3. Robert Parker-Jones
“Ponies rushing round the ring; overbent animals struggling for their heads; hurried transitions; overcollection in the walk, a running trot with no engagement of the hindlegs; canter overcollected and too slow, and ponies not lowering and lengthening the stride in gallop.”
4. Joanna MacInnes
“Connemaras — or any M&M — being asked to do a hack show.”
5. Jayne Ross
“Shows that are choppy and disjointed.”
6. Richard Ramsay
“Overbent horses that are behind the bridle and behind the leg.”