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Working hunter pony classes: judges’ tips on how to win *H&H Plus

Looking for golden nuggets to improve your pony’s success in these popular showing classes? We ask top judges what is key to a winning performance and what common mistakes riders make to throw away a class, plus all the essential info you need to know if you’re just starting out...

The working hunter pony (WHP) classes are some of the most popular on the showing circuit today. They are an all-round test of both pony and rider, with the judges assessing not only type, suitability, conformation, paces and manners, but also accurate and stylish jumping ability.

How did WHP classes begin?

WHP classes began at local shows and gymkhanas in the 1960s, and as they gained popularity, they came under the umbrella of societies such as the British Show Pony Society (BSPS), who first published rules to regulate the section in 1970.

“The WHP class evolved from replicating a day’s hunting, when you would arrive at the meet well turned-out and on a smart animal that is mannerly in company,” says judge and BSPS WHP team chef d’equipe Philip Hilton. “The pony should have good conformation — a major factor leading to a long and useful life as a hunter with minimal days off through injury — and most importantly, it should be able to jump a range of natural jumps cleanly, in an efficient and comfortable manner.”

The Ryder-Phillips’ Young Dragonara was an incredibly successful 15hh working hunter pony of his era.

This blueprint hasn’t changed down the years and the section has also proved a major “launchpad” for WHP riders who have gone on to star in racing, show jumping, eventing and other disciplines at the highest levels.

Nowadays, separate WHP classes exist for plaited and native ponies, but pure and part-bred animals — particularly Welsh section B, New Forest and Connemara — often double up and compete successfully in both sections.

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