There are now three opportunities for side-saddle riders to win a show horse championship this year, following the restructure of the ladies’ hunters at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS 7-11 October).
Last year HOYS said it was to open up the ladies’ hunter of the year championship to show horses — hacks, cobs and riding horses — to become the ladies’ side-saddle horse of the year championship.
“The impetus behind the change was to promote side-saddle on other types of show horses,” a HOYS spokesman told H&H.
“Numbers in side-saddle classes on hunters have consistently been in decline, and by opening the category to all types, we aim to inject new life into the discipline.
“This form of riding is an elegant and traditional art form and by expanding the class, we hope riders will be encouraged to explore the discipline.”
Showing judge and H&H columnist Stuart Hollings said this could be a positive development.
“When I’ve been judging at shows in recent years, I’ve noticed that some of the ladies’ hunter classes have not been up to scratch as regards both quantity and quality, compared to the past — so perhaps this can be seen as a much needed lifeline,” he said.
There was controversy last year when a disagreement over a new hat safety rule resulted in HOYS hunter qualifiers no longer being run by Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)).
In 2014 all the hunter qualifiers were instead run by the British Show Horse Association (BSHA), which will continue to run them this year.
In response to the change at HOYS, the BSHA has launched a separate BSHA ladies’ hunter of the year title, which will be held at the BSHA championships at Addington Manor on 10 September.
“Traditional ladies’ hunter competitors and fans were disappointed and did not wish to lose this class, hence we have introduced a new BSHA ladies’ hunter of the year championship to support the continuation of this iconic class,” said Sue Webb of the BSHA. “We hope that this initiative will be welcome.”
The BSHA also holds the Tiequestrian ladies’ show horse championship, working with the Side Saddle Association — also held at the BSHA championships in September.
“These together with the HOYS side-saddle horse of the year qualifier will ensure that fans of the genre will have plenty of chances compete in these most elegant of classes,” added Ms Webb.
“It will be interesting to see how this pans out, however the BSHA is confident that the showing scene is strong and as an association we will continue to support shows to provide opportunities for riders at all levels.”
H&H blogger Loraine Homer said the HOYS class change had received mixed views in the showing world.
“I think the popularity of it will depend on which day it is held,” she said. “I am delighted though that the BSHA will be hosting a ladies’ hunter of the year instead at its championship show in September.”
Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 February 2015