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‘It has a knock-on effect’ — showing society will not change young rider ages for 2021 season

The British Show Pony Society (BSPS) has informed its members that it will not be changing the ages of the plaited pony riders for the 2021 show season.

The cancellation of the majority of shows in the present term means some young jockeys have missed out on their last year competing in certain classes. The decision was made by the BSPS council after consultation with the two major showing championships, the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) and the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

The BSPS said in a statement: “The society has received a number of emails and letters asking if we could look at either increasing the ages of riders in all plaited classes for one year or increasing the ages for one year permanently because many shows have been cancelled for 2020 due to Co-vid 19, and some riders would not have their last year on their pony/horse in these classes.

“After several long discussions at virtual BSPS council meetings and after consultation with the RIHS and HOYS, the council has decided not to change the ages for 2021. The council appreciates that this will be disappointing for a number of members in their last year but the general consensus was that the ages of riders should not be increased.”

Emma Wallace’s daughter Miranda won at both HOYS and the RIHS in her last year in intermediate ranks.

“Miranda competed against older children for the majority of her pony showing career as she was so tall,” said Emma. “So I do feel for all the young jockeys — especially the intermediate riders as they will now have to ride in adult classes — who were intending to have their last year in a certain class.”

“But changing the ages has a knock-on effect. Those who will be in their last year during 2021 would no longer be the oldest in their class. It is sad but we live in strange times and hard decisions have to be made; the BSPS made the right call.”

Catherine Taylor’s daughter competes her string of ponies in working hunter ranks at both HOYS and RIHS level, and 2020 was her last year in 15hh classes.

“I am grateful the BSPS looked at the letters of the members and I respect their decision but I do wonder what harm would it have done,” she said.

“Looking at other disciplines and their governing bodies, it does seem possible and valid to take this non-existent competitive season and make allowances and adjustments for 2021.

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“For example, if the BSPS increased the age of the nursery stakes riders by one year for one season only, there would be no major difficulty in policing an age change short term. It’s just a temporary rule change and this would help prepare the younger jockeys to move up a class, such as cradle riders moving into nursery, or nursery riders moving into open 13hh. We can all practise at home — some more than others — but there is no substitute for ring experience.

“Also, a lot of children only have a pony for two seasons and are now out of the class; and your last season in a class is nearly always your best as you have more experience.”

What do you think of the decision? Email hhletters@ti-media.com

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