‘The partnership should flow together’: how to impress the 2022 HOYS ridden coloured judge

  • With the 2022 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) just around the corner, we caught up with ridden coloured horse and pony ride judge Sue-Helen Shuttleworth to find out a little more about her as well as what she’ll be looking for when she’s standing in the middle of the ring.

    Who is Sue-Helen Shuttleworth?

    Sue-Helen Shuttleworth began her show ring career aged 18. She has since won HOYS and the Royal International (RIHS), and is well known for her partnerships with coloureds, including stallions Del Boy and Boston.

    Sue-Helen runs her own yard in Lancashire, specialising in breeding and producing coloured horses and ponies for the show ring and sourcing and selling show cobs. She is a popular figure within the showing world, having won runner up in the show rider of the year awards at the Showing World awards, as well as winning overall show team of the year.

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

    “I will be on the hunt for something which instantly fills the eyes. As soon as the horse or pony walks in, I’ll be looking to see that it has a good, active walk. I want each animal to be true to its type and to cover the ground, while looking like it wants to be there. When the combinations move on, I’ll be looking for a partnership which flows together.”

    What will you be looking for when riding the horses?

    “I want something that I don’t have to kick; I really don’t like kicking! I want a ride which takes the reins in a nice way and bends around the leg. Suppleness and obedience are important, too, and the horse must move forward off the leg. The horse must have been prepared correctly and be able to cope with the unique atmosphere. It can be a fine line; you don’t want to overwork the horse so it’s flat, but you also don’t want to underwork the horse either, so it’s too hot and tense.”

    What will you be looking for when the ponies are performing their shows?

    “Again, I’ll be looking for something which performs to type. A native/traditional should be active and expressive in its movement, while a plaited pony should show more refinement and elegance, while still being active. I advise jockeys to use all of the ring and have the pony properly warmed up so it’s on the aids and bends correctly; the arena is small and space is limited. As a judge I’ll be looking for something that looks like I could just jump on and ride round.”

    What are some of your pet hates in coloured show horses and ponies?

    “When I’m ride judging I hate skinny reins and saddles that are both uncomfortable and don’t fit the horse correctly.”

    Any advice for those heading to HOYS for the first time?

    “If you’re taking a coloured, take extras of everything you need, including rugs, towels and bandages. I usually wash my horses at least twice before their class, so plan this into your day. If you’re taking a hairy cob, take wood flour to dry the feathers.”

    “Timings are essential; give yourself plenty of time to warm-up, for your horse to get settled and to get to and from the ring, which is at least 15 minutes from the stables. Most of all, enjoy the ride; that’s why we do it at the end of the day.”

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