Katy Carter: ‘Are we doing enough to prepare young riders so they can progress?’


  • Katy Carter raises concerns about standards of riding after her judging experience at the BSPS Winter Championships

    I haven’t attended the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Winter Championships since 2021, and this year I was lucky to be invited to judge the novice intermediates and the Royal International (RIHS) show hunter pony qualifiers.

    My novice intermediate champion was a lovely four-year-old show hunter type who went on to win the overall novice supreme title. He was a very exciting, true-to-type animal who I would have happily taken home, alongside several of the novice class winners. It’s promising, especially given the amount of negativity currently surrounding our sport, to see some nice up-and-coming animals.

    There is undoubtedly a drop in numbers in most sections, aside from the workers and lead-rein classes, which are both thriving.

    Due to declining numbers, running the championships over three days means that the final day has become a bit flat. Some of the rings stood down for a considerable amount of time, too, meaning that people had disappeared from the side of the rings and the atmosphere was gone.

    It could be beneficial to run the show over two days by eliminating some poorly supported classes, tightening up the schedule and having not-before times, rather than specific class times. That way, the rings could keep on running and the buzz could be maintained throughout the day. However, running a show like the winter championships isn’t an easy task, and overall it’s a relaxing, enjoyable fixture.

    “Utterly lost”

    I’m slightly concerned about the standard of our young riders’ abilities in the saddle. In the novice intermediate classes, I asked each of the jockeys to perform their own basic show; I was surprised that a few of them looked utterly lost.

    Also, some of the ponies looked as though they lacked education and basic schooling; I would question if some could ever canter a 20m circle without breaking. Some were lacking engagement, others running on the forehand, and some struggled with basic transitions. I wonder how much variety the ponies are getting at home?

    When my daughter began riding I regularly took her to the local riding school where she learned to steer, use her legs and ultimately ride off the rein. Many of the lead-rein jockeys we see today seem older, but are still balancing by holding the strap on the front of the saddle.

    Are parents or producers encouraging children to start learning to ride on their own at home? At some point, they have to come off the lead-rein and ride independently, but I don’t think we are currently preparing them for this next stage.

    I was thrilled with the riding of a young boy in the 12hh hunter pony class. He rode a lovely show, but unfortunately, his pony rodeo broncked during the gallop. Credit to him, he kept its head up and rode on, before bowing with a smile at the end of his performance. He was a great little competitor, and I don’t think many other children could have coped in such a situation.

    I much prefer to judge without marks and in each of the RIHS hunter pony classes I made an effort to give each competitor feedback after they’d been placed. Every single rider who came back for the championship improved. I have never been a fan of marks as they don’t provide anything constructive. Offering feedback allows riders to go back to the drawing board so they can do better next time.

    “A keenness to improve”

    I also asked the championship to really gallop and the spectators loved this. The applause received really added to the atmosphere. We do this job for the children, so we need to bring positivity, laughter and a keenness to improve back to the fore.

    While showing does get bad press, many of equestrian sport’s major talents started out in the sphere. I’ve always wanted showing to be a recognised sport, and we should promote it as much as we possibly can.

    ● What do you think of the standard of young showing riders? 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 magazine.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 11 May

    You may also be interested in…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...