Jayne McAuliffe on the British Riding Pony, junior jockeys and welfare
AS I begin my term as chairman of the National Pony Society (NPS), I’m aware that these are challenging times for our sport. The increase in costs and decrease in memberships is being felt across the board.
Last year saw the NPS, along with all the other societies, soldiering on with reduced office staff, some on furlough or working from home. Tribute must be paid to our office manager, Sacha Shaw, who for part of the year worked entirely alone, while also playing a large part in the drafting of The Showing Council guidelines.
Our recent NPS Spring Festival (24 April) held at the Three Counties Showground was a success. The whole day encapsulated the NPS ethos of being a friendly, welcoming and inclusive society and the smiles on the competitors’ faces made all the hard work behind the scenes worthwhile.
MATTERS OF SIZE
WE have seen an increase in the trend of adult riders on small breed mountain and moorland (M&M) ponies.
We rely on our judges to take account of the fit, weight, height and age of the rider, and this can only be marked down in the ring if it’s having a detrimental effect on the pony’s way of going.
The performance aspect would be penalised if the pony were to show any sign of negative impact as a result of the rider, in the same way that an overweight pony should be marked lower for conformation and placed down the line.
We count on our judges’ discretion in both these matters. Equestrian sport is one of the most inclusive in the world and although we as a society provide classes exclusively for juniors, we also celebrate that we can see our children compete against adults.
Furthermore, we want to stress to our members that ponies’ welfare should be at the heart of every decision. This also applies to travelling to shows, many of which will be on at the same time this year. We promote the ethos of “choose, don’t chase”.
Competitors think no one will realise if they’re taking a pony up and down the country in search of qualifiers, but in the age of social media, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE RIDING PONY
SADLY, British Riding Pony numbers are still dwindling and I would like to see more come forward in both the in-hand and ridden classes; as the passport-issuing organisation for the British Riding Pony, we are keen to promote their versatility.
With no rider age limits on our plaited pony classes, we have always encouraged lightweight older riders to enjoy competing their ponies under the same guidance that allows adults to ride M&M ponies.
Our judges will be looking for a harmonious picture, but rather than having to sell a pony when a rider is out of Horse of the Year Show and Royal International age-restricted classes, under the NPS banner they can continue to enjoy their pony. It also allows a novice pony some ring time under a more experienced rider.
We have not been idle during lockdown. Thanks to the vision of trustee and judge Sara Hird we have embarked on creating the Great British In-hand Show to be held in September at Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre in Cheshire.
It will be a showcase for breeders and a shop window for producers and owners looking to source their next superstar. It will bring together all of our wonderful native breeds and the British Riding Ponies, not forgetting our hacks and riding horses, many of whom have British Riding Pony blood. The following day will include the finale of our brand new arena eventing series.
It will be an end-of-season celebration of fun and excitement, and a chance for all pony enthusiasts to come together.
What do you think about adults riding ponies? Write to email@example.com
This exclusive column can also be read in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 6 May
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