Katie Jerram: Surviving a dangerously close encounter [H&H VIP]

  • After a dangerously close encounter at Suffolk Show, I wish county show organisers would ensure that horses and cattle don’t have to cross paths, and that walkway attendants have more knowledge of horses’ reactions.

    When I and other riders left a class, attendants closed a gate to allow cattle to cross the horse walkway. The cattle approached from behind a solid fence, round a corner, so horses had no warning.

    My horse took fright and had nowhere to go. The attendant — who I don’t blame and who was obeying standard instructions — refused to open the gate to let us through, even though there was time. My horse double-barrelled the fence, reared and then nearly went over backwards.

    In 2009, at the same show, I had a similar walkway accident and nearly ended up paralysed. I appreciate that livestock are an essential part of county shows and we all enjoy seeing them, but no amount of preparation can prevent a horse being frightened by the unexpected — and when horses are frightened, their instinct is to flee.

    I love Suffolk Show, but wish it would follow Royal Norfolk’s example and keep horse and livestock rings at opposite sides of the showground. I’d also like to see at least one attendant with horse knowledge on each walkway gate.

    If another competitor hadn’t helped, I might not be here now. Imagine this scenario with a child on a pony.

    Changing the rules

    On a more cheerful note, I’m pleased that the British Show Horse Association board has added an amended guideline on maxi cobs to its rule book. It now recommends that a maxi cob should ideally be in the region of 155.1-160cm, to protect the true type.

    A cob should be a short-legged animal of cob type that you can get on from the ground. We’re seeing too many tall, leggy animals who are hunter types — but not good enough to show in hunter classes — with their manes taken off.

    There’s also been a good rule change in the Great Scot! ladies’ side-saddle horse of the year series, open to all show horse categories. Competitors now extend the canter rather than gallop, which — considering hacks may be among the entrants and do not gallop in their own classes — is much more sensible.

    In my first Great Scot! qualifier, hunters stood first and second and a cob stood third. It will be interesting to watch statistics through the season and see how the different categories of show horse are represented.

    My perfect side-saddle horse will always be a ladies’ hunter, by which I mean a lightweight hunter up to 16.2hh. However, the ladies’ hunter class evolved when riding horses weren’t on the scene, and a large riding horse could give a similar picture.

    I see that Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain overturned its rule on mandatory safety hats and has gone back to allowing riders free choice on headgear. However, we will still be governed by shows’ own rules, so if you don’t want to wear a hat with a harness, check that the schedule allows you this option.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 June 2015