The Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) championships at Aintree wasn’t just a show. It was proof that when riders share a passion, it brings out the best in us.
Standing supreme on Barbers Shop (pictured) was one of my proudest moments. But everyone there could be equally proud: it wasn’t just about the rosettes, it was about showcasing ex-racehorses’ versatility and enjoying seeing so many looking happy and well-loved in their new careers.
Aintree International Equestrian Centre is so airy and light you hardly believe you are in an indoor school. Everyone from volunteers manning the car park, to stable managers, stewards and organiser Carly Goodall, was cheerful and helpful.
It was a privilege to see Grand National winner Neptune Collonges and other big winners parade, and I enjoyed the RoR musical ride team’s performance. Both ramped up the feel-good factor.
The organisers borrowed a clever initiative from the Royal Dublin Show by inviting spectators to “judge” some of the classes from the ringside. I hope more shows will borrow or adapt the idea.
It attracts spectators and, perhaps, shows that judging isn’t as easy as people think. At Dublin, there’s the added incentive that if your choices match the judges’, you can win €1,000 (£725). Perhaps we could see if the judges’ choices in one or two classes match the ringside ones and, if not, have rosettes for both riders.
A pre-HOYS investment
Stoneleigh Show has been another talking point. It was good to be back on the old showground and inevitably, many people expected it to be the Royal Show reborn.
It wasn’t. It was a new venture and there were several areas that needed improving. You always get teething problems but the organisers, Grandstand Media, listened to complaints and did well to make changes there and then.
Ground conditions meant ring sites had to be changed at short notice, and some in-hand competitors were unhappy about the going. The indoor school was fantastic, like riding in the Caldene arena at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), and both this show and Aintree gave a practice run for horses heading to Birmingham.
I’m surprised how many people head for HOYS assuming that their horses will adapt to an electric indoor environment after a summer outdoors. Some will, but many won’t, so if you don’t have access to an indoor school, hiring one for a few sessions before you get to Birmingham would be a good investment.
I’m finishing this column in between classes at a wet Edenbridge and Oxted show. Indoor facilities are lovely, but we mustn’t forget that agricultural and county shows are vital – and when the rain stops, you can’t beat them!
RIP Grand Slam
I was sad to hear that Jill Day has lost her six-year-old hunter, Grand Slam. Rob and Sarah Walker and everyone who looked after him will be devastated — it’s heartbreaking to lose any horse, but there’s an extra poignancy when the life of one who had a brilliant future is cut short.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 September 2015