Overweight horses should be placed lower, judges agree

  • Excess equine weight and whisker-trimming were among the horse-welfare issues highlighted by British Show Pony Society (BSPS), as it has been confirmed that overweight and obese animals should be placed lower.

    As well as safety, child safeguarding and biosecurity, judges at the BSPS judges’ conference and AGM on 5 February were reminded that horse welfare within showing, as with all equestrian sport, is under scrutiny.

    “Horse welfare is one of our top priorities and we have policies signed off for 2022 which will be reviewed throughout the season,” said BSPS chairman Paul Cook. “The Great Yorkshire Show’s decision to ban animals with trimmed whiskers competing at their show is a new rule for 2022, and we consequently ask our judges not to penalise ponies who come forward with untrimmed whiskers in BSPS classes.”

    Judges were also presented with several situational dilemmas with which they may be presented with in the ring, including equine obesity. Overall, it was confirmed that overweight or obese animals should be placed down the line.

    “Horses must be fit for purpose,” said BSPS judge Brigit Ensten. “It doesn’t matter which class it’s in, fat horses are the worst to watch or ride.”

    Fellow judge Brian Williams added: “I would always mention it to the competitor no matter where the animal placed in the line. There’s nothing worse than judging a beautiful animal which is overweight. We owe it to the competitor to let them know our opinions which they’ve paid for on the day. It may help them in the future.”

    The Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) was praised for allowing researcher and equine obesity specialist Tamzin Furtado, working with the Horse Trust, to attend in 2021 and give awards to the animals in the healthiest condition in each of 12 classes, an extension to a pilot that first ran in 2019.

    RIHS showing director David Ingle said: “It showed that we are willing to open the doors at any level and that showing isn’t hiding from equine obesity.”

    To improve safety across the board, the BSPS also informed judges of the new ruling that no ponies are to be galloped on the go-round in BSPS classes.

    Also discussed was how judges should deal with a pony which is noticed to be “unlevel on occasions” during its individual show at a fixture where no vet is present on the show ground.

    “It’s one of the most contentious situations for judges and it provokes the biggest amount of complaints from competitors,” said Paul Cook.

    There was various discussion, which ranged from judges’ placing the pony down the line or giving it fewer marks, to removing it from the ring completely as soon as slight lameness was detected.

    Top show producer and BSPS judge Richard Ramsay said: “It can be difficult, especially with parents watching by the side of the ring, but it becomes a welfare issue. We should not let ponies hobble round the ring. If I was ride judging and a horse was unlevel I would take it straight back into line.”

    BSPS championship show director Philip Hilton added: “A pony is either lame or it is not. If it is lame consider exactly where you would slip it in and how the other competitors would feel if they placed below a lame pony. If a pony is lame it should be sent out of the ring.”

    • What do you think, do you agree with the judges? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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