‘Straightness and good manners’: Olympia conformation judges explain their perfect native pony

  • You might have a beautifully moving native pony, but they have to stand up to conformation scrutiny in the show ring too. Last week we revealed what Olympia’s performance judges will be looking for during the Blue Chip British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage mountain and moorland championship on Monday 19 December. This time, conformation judges Stephen Howard and D Price Jones explain what they want to be presented with.

    Judge one: Stephen Howard

    What do you like to see?

    “We must retain the breed differences and not just allow a modern day hybrid to creep into the mountain and moorland classes. For me, breed type has to be right up there. The most disappointing result would be to see a nice pony win because it’s gone well and is okay conformationally, but isn’t really a good example of the breed. You want the winner to be a great example — not just a nice pony.”

    What are your pet hates?

    “Ponies must be able to move straight. It’s very basic, but so many are badly shod or trimmed, and their feet and legs go every which way. As this is Olympia I’m hoping for perfection, but I understand that some of the older campaigners might have the odd lump or bump. Personally, I’d far rather live with a manmade bump – such as a splint – than a true conformational defect like an offset cannon.”

    Do you have any tips for the competitors?

    “I dislike bad manners – and that includes the riders – and if the ponies won’t stand up, walk away and trot back without too much trouble at this level it’s a bad job, give or take a little for Olympia nerves and excitement.

    “Some handlers do not help as they run their ponies out of their natural rhythm and make things worse. So I would say make sure you know what’s going on and present your pony accordingly.”

    A little bit about Stephen…

    Stephen is from Boston Stud, North Yorkshire, and has bred section Bs for over 40 years. He has also point-to-pointed, hunted and evented.

    Stephen has been a Welsh Pony and Cob society judge for 25 years and is also on the BSPS Heritage and National Pony society flat and working panels. He has judged widely in the UK and around the world.

    “This will be my first time judging at Olympia and it is an honour to be part of it,” says Stephen. “I am only too aware of the cost and dedication it takes to keep an animal up to bring it forward in good shape in December.

    “To me, one of the main challenges facing the exhibitors is getting the right amount of work into the animals, when you only have limited working-in available in central London. For those riders who work, the sudden onslaught of dark nights doesn’t help in the run-up preparation so those who get it right need to be congratulated.”

    Judge two: D Price Jones

    What do you like to see?

    “Quality ponies which move freely under saddle, are true to their breed type and have plenty of good bone. They should look as though they could take a child on to do anything. I also want to see acceptably-sized jockeys who are in proportion to their ponies.”

    Do you have any pet hates?

    “Ponies that go over-bent, have spindly legs inappropriate to their type and poor conformation in general.”

    Continued below…

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    A little bit about the judge…

    He is from the Towy Valley Stud, Carmarthenshire, and breeds Welsh Bs and riding ponies. He has been judging for more than 20 years and is on the BSPS and WPCS panels.

    Don’t miss H&H’s live coverage of the BSPS Heritage mountain and moorland championship on Monday, 19 December, starting at 9.30am.

    Sign up for a reminder here.

    The full Olympia magazine report will be on sale Thursday 22 December.

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