As lockdown restrictions ease and some elite sports resume, we’re all wondering what the implications will be for showing. And will it ever be the same? The answer to the first question is that there seem to be two options – aim for a winter circuit run regionally or write off the 2020 season and start again next year. As for the second, we need to find temporary alternative strategies to give a safe way back to our sport.
No one knows whether Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) will go ahead as planned and if so, what will happen to the qualifiers? The HOYS website says that while it recognises this is an ever-changing situation and that they will be guided by the latest government recommendations, there is currently no direct advice about large events taking place later on in the year. Therefore, they are continuing to organise and prepare for October.
Many professionals believe the affiliated circuit won’t return until next year, although they do hope for some winter shows. The British Show Pony Society is developing a blueprint on how to organise a show safely and within government guidelines. Hopefully, other organisations are considering doing the same.
Whatever shape showing takes, there will be different formats for as long as precautions remain in place and probably for some time afterwards. There will be no ride-judges, but I hope this will be temporary. You can tell how a horse should ride by watching its way of going and from its conformation, but the reality of riding it can still bring surprises.
Will our more mature judges and stewards be prepared to get back out there? Many will, but they’re also more at risk. More than ever, we need young showing enthusiasts to step up as trainee stewards and probation judges.
Adapting like down under
We’ll have to think about the best and safest way to run classes, and the Australian system could be a basis. Down under, competitors walk, trot and canter as a class, then shortlisted candidates enter individually and perform a show while the judge completes a mark sheet. This would have to be tweaked to allow social distancing, as would the collecting ring system, and obviously prizes could not be awarded in line.
Sadly, I can’t see in-hand classes on the horizon and I imagine this year’s four-year-olds have lost their chance of age classes. I’d love to see Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain hold a winter young horse show if possible. If it could be filmed and an edited version shown online, it would help breeders and potential buyers.
An experienced, well-known breeder tells me that he has seen no drop in the number of owners wanting to put their mares in foal. That’s good news for stallion owners and, in the long term, for those who will be looking for quality youngsters.
Inevitably, even those who show professionally will stay regional rather than travelling the length and breadth of the country. Equestrian centres will have lost hire fees with the cancellation of so many early shows, so will need our support if a winter season proves possible. Now could be the time to get into different arenas to practise, as many can accept private bookings.
“We must stay positive”
Most people will have been able to start riding again, as livery yards are cautiously allowing access. We’ve concentrated on exercises to keep horses supple and interested, so they enjoy their daily work.
While we’re longing to get back to the sport we love and to see friends, at least the horses are staying happy and going well. Everyone is looking forward to getting back in the ring and we must stay positive.
Showing, unlike racing, can never be a vital part of the UK economy, but let’s not forget that it still plays its part in underpinning the equestrian world and associated jobs, as well as being something that we love.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 June 2020