Life lessons: Show pony specialist Sarah Newbould *H&H Plus*

The show pony specialist on lessons from the classroom, switching it on for the show ring and why she always trusts her instincts

  • Sarah (née Emmerson) heads up the Emmerson show team from their base in North Yorkshire. She produces a range of plaited and native ponies for the show ring. The team has won multiple titles at both the Royal International and Horse of the Year Show.

    I’ve ridden ponies since I was two years old, and while I always thought I’d have a career in horses, my parents told me to go to university, get a job and then if I wanted to come back to it later on I could. I’m so grateful they said that. I’ve now always got something to fall back on; I could fall off one day and not be able to ride or lead again.

    I’m a schoolteacher, so when things aren’t as busy on the show team I will go back to the classroom, and when it picks back up again I’ll go back to the yard full time. Showing can be hard; going to bed at 7pm to get up at 1am for a show, week in, week out is tough. Teaching has also helped me forge new friendships and have a part of life away from the horse industry.

    Because I’m a teacher, I know how important it is to be prepared. If you have a plan, everything will run smoothly, so consequently everything on our yard has a structure. When I teach riding, I make sure the lessons are focused, so each time the child can take something home and they feel like they have achieved.

    Trust your gut

    Hunter man Peter Richmond once told me that if something pops into your head, make sure you go and do it. For example, you might question if you locked the gate or if a horse’s rug is right. If you think something is wrong it usually is, so trust your gut instinct.

    On a show day, the one thing I always do is load the ponies on to the lorry myself. I like to check we have all the right ponies on and that they’re tied up properly; it’s a personal thing.

    At home we do a lot of running with the lead-rein ponies. When practicing I tend to jog along slowly at their side with my head down. So, just before I step into the ring I have to remind myself to stand up, look up and get ready to point my toes. It’s not just the pony and riders who have to show off, I also need to look my best.

    My riding icon is Charles le Moignan. In my younger days I always remember him in the collecting ring with a wide smile. When I was making my first steps into the horse world he was always the one who spoke to me and gave me advice.

    Now, if I spot a newcomer I will always make an effort to make them feel welcome. As producers, we can be so busy and focused that sometimes we can stand off a bit, so I do try to employ Charles’ friendliness when out and about on the circuit.

    Going with the flow

    Since having my son, Frank, I’ve become more tolerant and I’m now able to go with the flow a little bit more. I’m less strict than I used to be and I’m softer, realising not everyone goes at the same pace.

    I had a show pony first ridden, Cosford Promise, when I was a girl, and I’d love to have her back for Frank. She won 14 county shows one year; she could be narky at home but at a show she’d put her head into position and would go like clockwork.

    I’m also currently on the hunt for a lead-rein hunter pony for Frank, and I’ve realised how hard they are to find. Just like natives, there are so many different types within the class.

    My lead-rein hunter pony Joebex Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – who won Horse of the Year Show in 2013 – was a great example; I’m still looking for another like him. I get phone calls from people asking me to find them hunter pony lead-reins and I have to say that I need one for myself first!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020