Clashes in the showing calendar are inevitable, but this year seems to be causing more headaches than usual. With Royal Three Counties, the Derbyshire Festival of Showing, South of England and Bramham held over the same weekend, it was a logistical nightmare for riders aiming for HOYS qualifiers.
Royal Three Counties usually has healthy entries from far afield but, this time, numbers were down. My guess is that next year, numbers will be buoyant, because competitors playing a tactical game will gamble on getting better qualifying odds – probably only to discover that many others have had the same idea.
Maybe we should stop and ask ourselves: are we showing to take part in the discipline we love, whether we do it as part of our living or as a hobby, or are we showing to get to HOYS? Riders and owners want to see their horses under the spotlights at Birmingham, but let’s not develop tunnel vision.
On the subject of HOYS tickets, I hope the show organisers, Grandstand Media, and the BSHA will find a way to reinstate some of the hunter qualifiers. South of England lost its hunter qualifiers last season, Bramham’s have also disappeared and Kent has lost its weight classes this year.
These shows have held HOYS weight qualifiers for many years and, although the classes are still in their schedules, fewer people will enter. That’s sad — and it’s bad news for these traditional and important county shows. Some shows may decide it’s not worth holding the classes at all.
County shows without traditional hunter classes? What a horrible prospect. I realise that allocating qualifiers is a matter of logistics, but there are wider issues at stake.
Let’s stay positive: showgrounds have to make money, so you have to admire Westmorland County Agricultural Society for staging a concert by Elton John as part of what is rumoured to be the star’s farewell tour. Racecourses follow similar strategies to raise revenue – and with luck the Westmorland concert will safeguard the future of one of our oldest and largest one-day agricultural shows.
A problem-solving mindset is a must
On a brighter note, I was honoured to be chosen as an ambassador for Landmarks Specialist College, a small, independent college in South Yorkshire for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. I’m dyslexic and know too well the difficulties this can cause and how, unfortunately, it can cause some people to make unfair and inaccurate assumptions.
Yet the challenge of being dyslexic has helped me progress. As a child, I had to learn that if I couldn’t get from A to B via one route, I had to find another.
That mindset is essential when working with horses and riders. If a horse doesn’t understand what you’re asking him, or a pupil is struggling to follow your instructions, be prepared to explain things in a different way.
It’s harder for amateur riders to build a range of techniques, because they rarely get the chance to work with so many different types of horses. That’s where lessons and clinics come in: a problem shared is often a problem solved.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 2 July 2015