Katie Jerram-Hunnable: ‘I would have struggled to perform a set show — are they really fair?’ *H&H Plus*


  • Katie Jerram-Hunnable on our next generation of show jockeys, why we should be grateful and being on the fence about ride judging

    Whether you’re nine years old, 15 years old or even an adult, sometimes you get brain-freeze. In the show ring there is an immense amount of pressure on our young riders who get pulled in at the top of the line and are required to perform a set show on command.

    Nerves can get the better of them, and it’s particularly difficult to come out of the line and ride a routine – which is sometimes highly complex – told to you then and there. This happened to a young client of mine at the start of the year and afterwards she decided not to show again all season.

    These days, it’s more important than ever that we’re encouraging our numbers, so I would like to see set routines for riders to practise before the day of a show. In a dressage competition, you learn and perfect your test at home. When the first rider goes out to do their show in the ring, they’re at a disadvantage to those standing down the line, who can watch and establish the workout firmly in their minds.

    There should be different shows for novice and open level, as well as a selection to rotate over the year so animals don’t learn to anticipate. Our children could practise them at home. They put themselves under pressure enough as it is and if they go wrong, they can become disheartened and feel as if they’ve let their team down.

    Being dyslexic myself, I am thankful I didn’t have to perform set shows growing up. I would have struggled. Those riders who benefit from professional assistance are also arguably better equipped to ride set shows, so it would provide a more level playing field if everyone can practise before an outing.

    “I’m on the fence”

    It’s been a terrible year for everyone but it’s also been one full of change. And as the developments continue, it’s important that showing also adapts and accepts that things may be different moving forward. Aspects of showing, such as ride judging, have been temporarily lost, and while some are disappointed, there must be no moans; we’re lucky to have a scheduled season in the new year and should all look ahead with a positive attitude.

    I’m on the fence about ride judging. This term, I haven’t minded being able to perform individual shows on my young horses, who have benefited from the experience. I do wonder if there is a gap in the schedule for some novice classes without ride judges. When a baby horse starts his career, he’s initially out of his comfort zone. A new rider who asks different questions, is a different weight and rides differently can become all too much, and we wonder why they sometimes misbehave.

    I’m fortunate in that I can put lots of riders on at home, but some amateurs might not have this luxury, so a ride judge is a new question for their horse. This year I feel I have taken steps forward with my young horses. I could take them round the ring myself and give them a positive trip out, which will only benefit them in the future.

    “Brave yet sensible”

    I’m sad to hear that some of our traditional agricultural shows have already been cancelled in 2021, meaning they won’t have been held for two consecutive years. I pray that we don’t lose these shows for good. Most shows are inevitably going to be held at equestrian centres for the foreseeable future, as these venues are set up to be more Covid friendly. But whatever happens, we must support the shows we can attend and make sure we pencil in dates for 2022.

    So please support and get out. Be brave yet sensible.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2020

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