Showing will not be the same for some time, writes H&H’s showing columnist
I’ve decided that 2020 is the year of confusion and consolidation. The confusion comes because none of us know what is going to happen, in both the big wide world and in our small but – to us – still important world of showing. As riders and producers, we can consolidate our horses’ education and our riding skills so that when we are back competing in confidence, we can feel that we have made the most of our time away from the show ring.
Government rules and guidelines change so frequently, and at times bewilderingly. We all want to behave responsibly, and we also have to consider our individual circumstances. The Showing Council has produced a blueprint for the resumption of safe showing which has been well received and is a positive move.
It’s good to see there is still an eagerness to learn. I’m teaching showing clinics, which can be run in a safe way, and it’s heartening to see riders’ enthusiasm and their willingness to do the right thing. I’ve just been part of a lovely clinic with four people in each group and participants were careful to keep their distance from me and from each other.
Dressage, showjumping and eventing are forging ahead within distancing regulations. When you’re the only rider in the ring, what passes for normal life at the moment is far easier. Showing enthusiasts have to be patient and although we all hope we will eventually return to our traditional formats, those who choose to go out must accept new restrictions and class formats.
One of the biggest changes in horse classes is that ride judging has been sidelined. I saw a video of a show in Southern Ireland where a ride judge was preparing to go ahead and all judges on the ground and officials wore masks. I don’t think you’d find many in the UK willing to ride judge, even if it were permitted.
I love being a ride judge and hope the role will return, as it gives a unique perspective, but I wouldn’t get on someone else’s horse even at a clinic. I don’t want to come into contact with other people’s tack and equipment and we must be careful that the relaxation of rules doesn’t breed complacency.
Thinking outside the show ring
There is a fine line between encouraging riders to try different things and maintaining their allegiance to showing. I’ve always believed that show horses – and riders – should be versatile. That could be as simple as taking a young horse out to a few dressage shows to get him used to being out and about and working in a different environment, or enjoying some schooling showjumping rounds if you’re aiming at workers classes.
Some show horses and ponies enjoy their job so much they can continue into veteran classes. Others need to change direction if they acquire a blemish which spoils their chances, or if they are not suitable for a schoolmaster role. If every horse has a good general education, it will always find a new job and a good home. As owners, it is our responsibility to give them every chance.
As I write, I have just one show in my calendar this year. I’m aiming to take just novices who have established a good foundation in their schooling and are at the stage where they need to get out rather than their connections wanting to go to a show. It’s all about small steps, and will be for some time to come.
Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020