Katie Jerram-Hunnable: ‘It’s hard for an adult to settle a stressed horse, let alone a child’


  • Katie Jerram-Hunnable, show horse producer for HM The Queen, shares her thoughts on the job of judges, ring-rusty young jockeys and the need for quiet rings...

    THIS week, I wanted to address a few things that my fellow producers, columnists and competitors have commented on recently. It was lovely to be back out showing at championship level at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS), but after a season out of the show ring, I noticed that a lot of riders, mainly those in the children’s classes, were ring rusty.

    For many young jockeys, the RIHS was their first experience of a big showing class. Sometimes, ponies were moving three or four abreast on the go-round and during the initial pull-in, judges couldn’t even find the pony they wanted.

    The number of riders who couldn’t ride a final walk-round was also alarming.

    The problem is that you just can’t replicate this atmosphere at home and entries are significantly less at the smaller, qualifying shows, making for a very different experience.

    However, while all should be forgiven for those riding in the 122cm or 128cm classes, for those riding ponies above the 133cm mark, this lack of ringcraft needs to be ironed out.

    Similarly, why are some jockeys of a certain age still riding with knots in their reins? Even when on the lead-rein, they should be learning to ride without them as soon as possible.

    I was recently chatting to a fellow judge about this issue, and he said that when he was judging a small hunter class a few weeks ago, he was shocked to find one adult competitor with knots in their reins.

    When I was judging at the British Show Pony Society championships, one 133cm show hunter pony rider I judged even had a handle on the front of the saddle.

    While nerves, pressures and being told to hold the hands in a certain place are all possible reasons for knots, shouldn’t we be teaching jockeys how to ride properly as early on as possible in their careers?

    Maybe it’s the trend of the child just getting on the pony at a show, but if this is the case, they must do more homework to ensure they have a stronger partnership with the pony and have their basics in place.

    If you’re spending a lot of money to buy and show beautiful animals, ensure your child is learning their craft, too.

    I was also disheartened to hear about fellow columnist Julie Templeton’s recent situation at the RIHS (opinion, H&H 12 August) where a young jockey from her team had her first place stripped from her in the 138cm show pony class after the pony fidgeted in the line-up.

    These championships have such a wonderful atmosphere, but when animals are called forward in reverse order and are then subject to loud cheering and even roaring from the spectators, it can be horrendous as a rider, especially if you’re sitting on a tense animal who isn’t used to such a situation.

    I felt greatly for that poor child; to have lost out on that moment would have been severely traumatising. It’s also unfair how it’s only the winner who is ever demoted, and usually not any other placing further down the line.

    At the end of the day, we’re not riding police animals. Should we be encouraging no noise until the lap of honour? We don’t want to lose our top animals just because they become unsettled by factors outside of their control. We want the ring as quiet as possible and it’s hard enough for an adult to settle a stressed horse, let alone a child.

    Clapping after individual shows is something I’d definitely like to see clamped down on, as it not only agitates the pony that has just finished its show, but the next combination who are about to set off.

    • Do you think spectators should be expected the remain quiet at ringside until the lap of honour? Share your views by emailing hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, and if your views are published as our letter of the week you will win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

    This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 26 August

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