‘Judges were willing to shuffle their initial pull-ins’: H&H’s showing editor reviews the Royal International


  • H&H’s showing editor Alex Robinson on the themes she spotted at the 2022 Royal International Horse Show

    GIVEN the negative cloud which has been hanging over showing recently, there was certainly some tension ahead of the 2022 Royal International Horse Show (RIHS). The beautiful venue of Hickstead is the perfect setting for a championship show, but would the showing world still be at loggerheads?

    Refreshing social media sites after each major championship admittedly provoked some anxiety about how the results would be received. However, as the show went on this subsided. Competitors seemed genuinely happy to be at this iconic fixture, winners – amateur or professional – were applauded by spectators after their victories and there was an air of positivity and joy throughout the week.

    It seemed like everyone was just pleased to be back at our much-loved mid-season championship show. The event ran smoothly and all credit to the stewards, judges, commentators and organisers, who kept things moving, despite some classes running on longer than anticipated.

    The supreme pony and supreme horse finals were a spectacle. The horse showdown resulted in two combinations, Robert Walker and View Point, and Danielle Heath and Forgeland Hyde Park, duelling in a ride-off. It was a thrilling showcase of the country’s very best, and it proved that showing can make for exhilarating viewing.

    The working hunter classes were arguably my favourite watch of the week. The working hunting courses were testing and tricky, not only due to the inclusion of some of Hickstead’s permanent features such as the ditch, open water and wall, but the course-designer’s clever lines and off-set combinations really made riders, and animals, think about the task at hand.

    What a thrill it would be to jump round this track one day, though I’d definitely be putting in a few hours on the hunting field or on a cross-country course before attempting it.

    Display of showmanship

    THE marking system is something which can be debated to death, but in this instance, the organiser’s decision not to use marks in qualifiers and at the RIHS final seems to have been well received. In a way, once a class was finished a line was drawn and it was over. Competitors couldn’t get their hands on a mark sheet, unless they jumped in a working hunter class, to analyse and obsess over well into the night.

    Most judges didn’t ask for set shows, enabling riders to show off their animal’s best paces, display showmanship and push the boat out. If I were to qualify and pay entry fees to compete at such a show, I would enjoy being able to ride a show of my own choice.

    There is always some concern from exhibitors that judges “won’t remember” errors, mistakes or bad behaviour. Some judges chose to keep their own notes to negate this, and from the ringside the classes I watched were fairly judged.

    A running theme throughout the showing classes was that judges weren’t afraid to move their initial pull-ins around. Many winners were not pulled in top, some even coming up from right down the line to win, which cemented the fact that judges were willing to shuffle around where necessary.

    Wrong legs, misbehaviour and other errors were penalised, as should be the case at a major show like the RIHS, and strong performances seemed to be rewarded.

    As an amateur rider myself I always smile when a home-producer is brought to the fore, and this year’s fixture saw many take the top spots. It proved that with a quality pony and correct training amateurs can compete against the best.

    Some new equine faces also stepped into the limelight, and it was exciting to see the next generation of top-class show animals enjoying the first major wins of their careers.

    • Don’t miss the full 11-page Horse & Hound magazine report on all the RIHS showing highlights, on sale Thursday 4 August

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