Dope-testing, body protectors and whiskers debated at showing judges’ conference *H&H Plus*

  • Anti-doping rules toughened up for this season were among the topics of debate at the British Show Pony Society annual judges’ conference. H&H finds out more about what’s in store for members this year

    NEW dope-testing and body protector rules were among the topics of conversation at the annual British Show Pony Society (BSPS) judges’ conference last week.

    More than 100 people joined the virtual session, at which Paul Cook, chairman of the BSPS judge assessment committee, thanked members for their work during a turbulent year.

    The meeting tackled judges officiating without a marking system in Royal International (RIHS) qualifiers and at the final.

    Council member Joanne Griffin discussed how judges should assess conformation with no marks, particularly when it comes to stripping ponies in the ring. She said in the past, with huge entries and strict timetables, it was impossible to strip every entry.

    “Classes these days are much smaller and with Covid restrictions we may have to judge in sections. This should give us the chance to strip all the ponies,” she said. “Competitors’ attitudes and expectations have changed; they want, quite rightly, a fair crack at the whip and their money’s worth. It is our duty as judges to deliver. Whether a pony stands top or bottom of the line they should all be treated equally.

    “Conformation is very important so it should always be assessed. Even if you’re not taking saddles off, please ask for a walk away and trot back.”

    Mr Cook confirmed that judges must strip a reasonable number of ponies in qualifiers, but it is down to the show to determine if they want two judges. If there are two, all ponies will be stripped and judges will confer.

    Rule changes to dope-testing were also highlighted by BSPS dope-testing officer Dawn Christie.

    “When you now join, you must tick a box stating that you’ve read rule 63, a full explanation of our dope-testing policy,” she said. “This is so ignorance of the rules is not acceptable.”

    Any pony at a show, competing or not, may be tested, which the BSPS hopes will prevent ponies being withdrawn when a testing officer is spotted. Obstructive behaviour to the officer or vet is also an offence, as is bringing any banned substance to a showground.

    “If a horse or pony has been ‘nobbled’, the excuse that it’s been got at a show will not wash; it is up to the owner, rider or producer to prove this, not for the society,” Ms Christie said, adding that the BSPS can now also take hair samples to clarify how long drugs have been in a pony’s system.

    Championship show vice-chairman Philip Hilton confirmed body protectors have been introduced in working hunter classes for safety reasons (news, 14 January), and that the BSPS will develop a standard for these in future.

    Mountain and moorland (M&M) specialist Peter Boustead gave a guide for judges on how much white should be allowed on each of the nine native breeds, stating that type and conformation is always more important than colour, and judges should abide by this.

    He added that if judges think a pony is too big for its class, they should take type and conformation marks off.

    In relation to new FEI rules banning whisker removal, council member Edward Young said the BSPS has no plans to legislate such trimming, but it will continue to listen to members’ views on the topic.

    “We take animal welfare very seriously,” he said. “While we feel it’s still OK to remove hairs, judges should not penalise a pony for coming into the ring with whiskers.”

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