Magnus Nicholson: Producing a show horse is an art *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist looks ahead to how showing may change in the future

    Our showing societies have acted the best they could during these unprecedented times. Showing – unlike other disciplines – does not have one governing body and, therefore, is run by teams of committees and volunteers with passion and expert knowledge in a specific area. We have numerous pony, horse and breed societies for each type of animal and this is why one overriding body would not work.

    While The Showing Council does a good job at monitoring rules, we need different experts to run their own society. I’ll be the first to admit that I have little knowledge of mountain and moorland ponies and unlike showjumping, where you generally have to complete the course in the fastest time to win, each breed or type of horse and pony deserves its own society committed to breeding, promotion and preservation.

    In terms of fixtures returning, societies will have had to adhere to Government guidelines and I take my hat off to those who are running shows, however small, who work within the rules.

    Social media has been invaluable at keeping us informed and updated. I have noticed many photographs and posts of people spending quality time with their horses on fun rides, cross-country schooling and heading onto the beach. This variety will be good for the horses, both mentally and physically.

    I did have a moan to my wife, Kate, the other day as she’d hacked our heavyweight, Bowland Lucky Slipper, some 60 miles over one week. Being a typical Yorkshireman, I told her that I wasn’t happy about his shoes wearing out so quickly as I’d have to pay for a new set.

    Ride judging is imperative

    Due to social distancing measures, one aspect we will miss from shows for the foreseeable future is ride judging, a key aspect of horse showing. There is an art to producing a show horse for someone else to ride and it’s what makes showing unique from other disciplines.

    Without a judge on board and with the introduction of set shows, we are in danger of showing becoming similar to lower level dressage and we might even lose some of our members to the white boards.

    The excitement of showing is the go-round and then the hope of your horse going well for the judge. Spectators get a buzz from watching certain horses excel under a quality ride judge. Anyone who was lucky enough to watch the late – but great – Rory Gilsenan officiate at the Great Yorkshire will never forget the spectacle he injected into the rides; the grandstand was always cheering him on.

    “They find it boring”

    It’s sad that we don’t have Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) to finish off our season – I was very young when I attended for the first time. I remember standing on the lorry ramp waiting for my show pony to appear ready for his class. If you ask Kate, she would tell you that little has changed to this day.

    I know that HOYS is often classed as just a “show in a car park” but for me it’s my end-of-season party. Nowhere else will you see all the disciplines come together; you can watch the likes of Charlotte Dujardin and John Whitaker alongside the Pony Club games and scurry racing. It’s the only show you can take your granny or non-horsey other half to and they won’t get bored. Let’s face it, if someone who’s not into showing watches a show class, they may find it all very boring.

    If we finished our showing season at our society championship show of choice, I think we’d miss HOYS.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 August 2020