Katie Jerram-Hunnable: ‘We need more novice classes’


  • This is the time for our young talent to shine, writes leading competitor, trainer and judge Katie Jerram-Hunnable, who has produced top class show horses in all sections, including several for The late Queen

    It’s been an exciting time for showing as the next generation of talent has come to the fore. At last month’s Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) young riders Will Morton and Craig Kiddier finished as supreme and reserve in the prestigious horse supreme championship. Alice Homer also shone at Hickstead after her run at the Great Yorkshire where she took the novice hunter championship. We’re constantly asking when the next batch of new faces will come through, and it’s happening right now.

    I always knew Will would reach the top. He won the SEIB Search For A Star series in 2013 and then he came to work for me when he left school. His attention to detail was second to none and he never left a stone unturned. It’s lovely he’s now found the right string of horses to take him through; many people have talent, but you also need to have the right material underneath you to succeed. I was so proud and watching him felt as good as winning the class myself.

    What Will, Craig and Alice have in common is that they have dabbled in other disciplines, such as eventing, hunting and racing. They have all done their stints in the Pony Club, too. A note to the generations behind them is to try different things as it’s this experience in other disciplines that will shape you into an excellent rider.

    A lack of support for novice classes

    It was great to see a first Burghley young event horse qualifier held at the recent Sports Horse Breeding (SHB) of Great Britain (GB) championships (15–16 July). Credit must go to Nick Gauntlett and those on the council whose efforts were instrumental in obtaining the qualifier. It was a huge class and competitors and spectators alike loved it. It’s important for the society to be part of such a competition as ultimately, we’re breeding horses for performance.

    What was disappointing, however, was the lack of entries in the novice classes. While the animals presented were top quality, there were only three or four exhibits in each class. I’ve recently returned from Dublin, where the novice classes were so well supported that they had separate sections for weights.

    As fellow columnist Simon Reynolds recently noted, novices really do miss out during the season with a lack of opportunities, so are people not bringing their young horses to the championships due to a lack of preparation?

    Learn their trade

    The four-year-olds suffer the worst as classes for this specific age continue to decline. I have a four-year-old who has only been to one show this year, despite being ready to do more. I don’t want to take him in an open class for fear of him winning and so being ruled out of future novice classes. Even if I were to enter him in a novice class, he’d be against more seasoned horses.

    While we can give them outings over winter in the dressage ring and at arena hires, I want my young horses also to learn their trade in the discipline they are ultimately going to contend. This begs the question; do we need a new novice series held throughout the show season with a final offering a monetary prize held at the championships?

    I also ponder if we could encourage amateurs to enter their young horses by awarding a highest-placed amateur rosette in each novice class, culminating in an amateur novice supreme. I, along with the rest of the SHB (GB) society, would be grateful for ideas.

    ● How do you think societies can offer more opportunities for novice horses and ponies? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 24 August, 2023

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