Katie Jerram-Hunnable: ‘It’s going to be a difficult time’

  • Katie Jerram-Hunnable on why astronomical living costs will change the way we compete

    Our first show of the season was the Wiltshire Spring Show held at West Wilts Equestrian Centre (26–27 March), and while it was a long way for us to travel it was well worth the journey. The venue was superb and the show itself was greatly run by organisers Vincent Seddon and Ian Smeeth.

    What I loved most was the wide variety of classes for everyone. There was a section of unaffiliated classes ideal for those who are just starting out in showing; it’s these opportunities which provide a stepping stone for riders who might want to dip their toes in the water before signing up to societies.

    The working hunter sections seemed to have unbelievable numbers. The range of different fence sizes and course technicalities meant competitors could start small and gain confidence without any stress before working their way up to the Royal International (RIHS) qualifiers. Similarly, the British Show Pony Society’s (BSPS) new Winter Worker Stakes series has been a fantastic introduction at this time of year, and I hope to see these sorts of classes continued in the future.

    The novice horse classes were particularly strong and all the animals came out looking really well. Those novices who stayed novice after 2021 have really benefited from the extra time in the ring without pressure.

    If we only have one lesson to come out of the Covid period it’s that horses should never be rushed. It should be confirmation that time and patience with animals really does pay in the end.

    “It’s a huge loss”

    Looking to the season ahead and it’s a real shame we’ve lost some of our county shows, including Surrey County.

    We will be running on a different circuit this year as some of the prestigious counties have lost some of their Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers, namely the Royal Norfolk, but I know there are others. We would always take hunters across to contend in the qualifiers held at Norfolk, and while the entries were never massive, it’s a huge loss to this much-loved, beautiful show which is rooted in tradition.

    We cannot ignore the impact of rising fuel, feed, bedding and general living costs will have on our sport moving forward. Fuel and energy costs are phenomenally high and people will be putting more thought into where they show this year, and this will have a knock-on effect on entry and ticket sale numbers. It’s going to be a difficult time and I predict riders will be staying local or attending far fewer shows.

    I am lucky in that I can take a lorry load of horses to one show, but if I had to put one horse on the box I would probably think again, especially this early in the season. After the RIHS final in July, classes might start to garner more support after people vie for those last-minute HOYS tickets, but only time will tell.

    Championing British Breeding

    Returning to the topic of young horses, I feel 2022 will be an especially strong year in the show ring. It’s fantastic to see how British breeding is being championed. We have so many passionate, knowledgeable people within our industry as well as great stallions and some lovely mares.

    The quality of the horses of today compared to those of yesteryear is only improving, and it appears mare owners have become more aware of what bloodlines will suit their horse when the time comes. There are some beautiful horses out there, which is exciting for the future of our sport.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 14 April

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