Before I was allowed to have my own pony as a child, my parents would always take me to London with a friend to watch Olympia as a present for my birthday, which falls the week before the show.
This was my first time judging there and the standard was incredibly high. Each breed was well represented and on the whole everything went in accordance to breed type. However, across the board — in plaited and horse ranks, too — we are at risk of types bleeding into each other. As a judge, we should be able to put the animals we have in front of us in a specific class.
Our champion (Dyffryngwy Sir Picasso) was impeccable. He looked through the bridle, was light on his feet and totally on the aids of his rider, all combined with that “Welsh” personality.
My background and training is in dressage and this means I always look at the fundamentals; I want something that can perform at base level but with that added pizazz needed for the show ring.
It was also nice to see a gelding win; I’m not an advocate of stallions being shown if they’re not considered good enough to be used at stud.
Correctness is vital
While adhering to breed standard is imperative, I do desire to see correctness in way of going. An awful lot of ponies in show production are not straight and a lot are on the forehand.
These issues can be amplified by the rider trying to fit too much into a short space of time forcing the ponies out of their rhythm. For example, a serpentine might appear simple but it is actually difficult to get right. It can be hard, especially on a large breed or one of the heavier types, to make it look tidy in such a small space.
As I am known for my judging of horse classes, I thought some riders might try and impress me with an intricate show, however the majority did present their animal’s strengths and let them go forward and cover the ground, which can be hindered by too many changes of pace.
I enjoyed the system of using four judges and four marks, and when we all met in the middle at the end we were all happy with our final line-up of ponies. But with this in mind, competitors shouldn’t be disheartened when looking at the final scores. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and what one judge prioritises another won’t.
It was also positive to see few overly fat ponies. The majority looked fit and able to do a job. The standard of riding was also excellent. The competitors were obviously enjoying their ponies, which was heartening to see.
Having a pony produced for a December show is going against everything the native was designed for and every single entry looked like a champion on the day.
There must be a special mention for the British Show Pony Society, who made my judging experience so fantastic. Their organisation and excellent efficiency turned my high-pressured job into a very pleasurable one.
Ref Horse & Hound; 2 January 2020