My first love will always be ponies and the highlight for me, as senior showing steward, was the open show pony championship. What a thrill for those six riders who performed in front of The Queen.
That memory will last them a lifetime and was a fabulous advert for the British riding pony.
You always worry when you have ponies going into the main ring, because of the atmosphere. It was wonderful to see riders and ponies perform so well.
What an experience, too, for the judges: Gregory Goss, from South Africa, and Kathryn Pitt. We wanted an international flavour and Gregory is not only a very experienced judge, but doesn’t know any of our competitors.
Royal Windsor also tries to bring in fresh faces, by pairing younger judges with senior experienced conformation judges. Showing judges came from all parts of the UK, giving the widest viewpoint.
That, I think, helped ensure a supreme packed with top contenders. Sometimes, even at one-day shows, half the competitors eligible for a supreme championship don’t turn up because they can’t be bothered to stay. But here, at a five-day show, only two didn’t come forward.
We tried to make the showing classes informative for spectators by interviewing judges and asking them to explain what they were looking for. The crowds at Royal Windsor appreciate horses; for example, there was an enormous class of M&M lead reins and spectators were four deep around the ring.
The full spectrum of M&M classes was a great advert for British ponies. Encouragingly, we’re seeing fewer overweight animals. If I have to criticise, I’m disappointed how few show hunter ponies galloped correctly and how many of the intermediates performed inaccurate shows.
You expect intermediates to perform polished shows, as these are meant to be a stepping stone between pony and horse classes. The winners, however, were magnificent and helped underline this year’s show as one to remember.
Ref Horse & Hound: 18 May 2017