Olympia M&M ride judge Nigel Hollings’ top tips for success

Ahead of next month’s BSPS Heritage ridden Mountain & Moorland final (Sunday 22 December) at the London International Horse Show at Olympia, Horse & Hound speaks to ride judge Nigel Hollings, who reveals what sort of pony will impress him on the day…

Who is Nigel Hollings?

Nigel’s long list of accolades in the showing world as both a rider and producer are extensive. As a rider he took the supreme title at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in 1989 with the riding horse Fair Breeze. His achievements as producer include taking supreme honours at the Royal International (RIHS) with Royal Bronze in 1993 and he has been involved with 25 HOYS winners through either riding, training or breeding. His native production tally includes four Olympia best of breed titles, the supreme M&M ridden accolade at the RIHS, the mini M&M of the year title at HOYS and the Picton novice championship. Nigel has been a British Show Pony Society (BSPS) executive council member for 33 years and is also chief showing steward at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. He is also the current chairman of the British Show Horse Association.

What is his judging experience?

Panels: BSPS, NPS, AHS, BSHA, SHB GB, PUK, CHAPS, BSPA, TGCA, SSAD and RoR.

Favourite judging appointment? Nigel has judged HOYS three times, the RIHS nine times, Royal Windsor eight times and Olympia once. He has judged at all major county shows and has also been overseas to judge in South Africa, Australia and Dublin. Nigel says: “I have loved all my appointments, from Royal Windsor to HOYS right down to my favourite riding club, Ribble Valley, where I started showing in 1967.”

Issues in the discipline: “The positives include our younger riders, who have come from different levels to rise through the ranks. I think it is important to provide opportunities for our young, aspiring judges to join our panels. On the downside, doping continues to be a big issue. We must continue to monitor the welfare of our beautiful ponies and horses at the shows, especially in the novice classes. I would also like to see a changing of attitudes towards our show animals; in my day, it was the animal that was the superstar whereas today, it’s the riders that want to be the “celebrity”. Social media has a big part to play in that attitude, but we must remember that nobody would be where they are without their beautiful horse or pony.”

Olympia 2019: “I have judged the Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd (SSADL) championships at Olympia before and the show has a unique Christmas atmosphere, which is such fun. Traditionally, it has always been the number one stage for native ponies. It is one of the hardest shows to produce for given its lateness in the year. With four judges and performance marks being displayed on the screen right after each show, it is one of the most interesting to watch.”

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What will he be looking for on show day?

  • Good presentation and turnout. I will look for riders who make the most of their pony’s good points
  • I will be on the hunt for a pony who is a real showman with quality and presence
  • I’m looking for a simple, well executed, flowing show. I am definitely not looking for a hack-type show
  • Above all, I would like to see a rider and pony in complete harmony

What are your pet hates?

  • Napping
  • Ponies going in an over bent outline
  • A boring, wooden performance
  • Overweight ponies
  • There is a fine line between a pony with presence that boils over into misbehavior. I will allow for a little over exuberance in the electric atmosphere, but not much

Which three characteristics will your champion have?

  • A good ambassador of its breed
  • A quality showman
  • I want to feel as though I would enjoy a ride on the pony myself

And finally…

My final piece of advice for those competing at Olympia is to just enjoy the day. Seize the moment, keep focused and go for it.

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