‘I hate to see riders see-sawing on mouths’: how to impress the BSPS supreme ridden M&M judge in London

  • Ahead of the 2022 British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage mountain and moorland (M&M) supreme final held at London International Horse Show later this month, H&H caught up with ride judge Fiona Holton to find out what she’ll be looking for on the day.

    Fiona Holton will be assessing the native ponies’ performance alongside Jill Burgess, with judges Joyce Coltart and Ann Bigley on conformation duty.

    About Fiona Holton

    Fiona is an experienced and esteemed showing judge who sits on BSPS, Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd and The Showing Register panels. In 2022, Fiona judged at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and this year is her first officiating in London.

    What will you be looking for when the combinations enter the ring?

    “I am judging way of going so as each pony enters the ring I will be studying that aspect of each combination very carefully. I like to see a pony who works from behind into a light contact. I will be looking for ponies to work in a soft, rhythmic and obedient way, and I do like to see a bit of inside bend when necessary; I don’t want to see ponies constantly looking in the wrong direction! I will be looking for each pony to have correct movement for their breed, too, and I hopefully I will see some power from those types of animals who should have it.”

    What sort of show will impress you?

    “Each rider should ride a show that highlights what’s good about their pony. For example, I will hope to see that wonderful, powerful trot from the Dales, Fell and Welsh breed representatives. I want to see total obedience throughout and I have an obsession with really good manners. Everything in the show should happen when it’s supposed to happen; when a rider sits and asks for the canter the command should be absolutely there. When moving down the paces, I want to see a pony who is polite and soft; I hate to see riders see-sawing on mouths. A harmonious partnership between pony and rider finishes off the overall picture.”

    What are some of your show ring pet hates in natives?

    “I hate to see ponies over-bent or going behind the vertical. I similarly don’t like to see a partnership of pony and rider that obviously isn’t harmonious. Unfortunately, sometimes you do see riders who would be better suited to a different animal.”

    What makes London International so special?

    “The atmosphere is totally unique and it’s completed by the Christmas theme and high standard of equestrian competition. I have no doubt that the M&M ponies contending the BSPS supreme final will be part of this exceptional standard. The marking system used in the championship is also a bit different.”

    Any sign-off advice for those riding there for the first time?

    “Have a plan for your show and stick to it; try to not make last minute adjustments on the day. Practise your performance at home so both pony and rider have an understanding of what’s expected. This will ensure your show goes as smoothly as possible.”

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