Pat Pattinson: ‘The BSPS were brave enough to lead the way’ *H&H Plus*

Pat Pattinson has been chairman of the BSPS for a decade. A former competitor, she is now an esteemed judge who has officiated at all the major shows.

  • BSPS national chair Pat Pattinson explains some of the challenges involved in putting on championship shows in a Covid world, as well as offering advice on how to be successful in affiliated showing to those starting out...

    AS I write, I’ve just about recovered from our British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage championship show held at Arena UK (17–18 October). There was a fabulous atmosphere, and even though there were no Olympia qualifiers, people wanted to be there.

    It’s been a difficult and challenging year. The latter word has been used a lot but rightly so. During lockdown no one could have predicted that showing could have carried on this season.

    I must mention one individual, Joanne Pybus, who has been instrumental in formulating a blueprint alongside the Showing Council and the other disciplines.

    The BSPS has flown the flag. We were brave enough to put our necks on the line. This is no disrespect to anyone; but someone had to lead the way. People had a choice if they wanted to take part or stay at home.

    As chair of the society, I was fortunate to lead a great team. I like to enable people to bring their best to the table and, while it has been hard work, seeing both the summer and Heritage championships come to life was worth the effort.

    The organisation of class times – something the BSPS finals have always done – as well as working in slots, course-walk times and times for working hunter competitors to jump was a logistical nightmare.

    Lincolnshire council came to inspect the venue prior to the show, and they were well satisfied that we’d crossed every T and dotted every I. We made sure we did everything we could to keep members safe and it’s a format we will undoubtedly have to work with next year, too.

    Covid isn’t going to go away and it’s still serious. Our sport must work around it and we must plan 2021 with the same blueprint in mind. We now look towards our BSPS winter championships, hopefully to run next March. There is certainly no rest for the wicked!

    This year we also introduced the new rule that worker jockeys must wear body protectors to jump. It didn’t go down very well with everyone but it was decided with welfare in mind. I’ve never worn a back protector myself but that doesn’t mean I was right, I was just lucky. It was put in place to protect, the key component of planning a show in the new era.

    “We all know what it was like starting out”

    MY daughter and I transitioned into showing the way most do, starting out in unaffiliated classes before moving up the BSPS pony route. The journey can only be described as a magical mystery tour and it doesn’t seem to get any easier for those starting out.

    I was fortunate to have a lot of guidance during my early years, and this is why I’m keen for new members also to have this help. It’s a confusing sport to get into, let alone do successfully. My advice to anyone is don’t be shy to ask. We all know what it was like to be starting out.

    Getting the right combination of pony and rider can also be a struggle. Again, we’ve all been there; I’ve bought ponies for my daughter which have been utter disasters and others which have been saints. I think I possibly love two of them more than my husband.

    When I’m judging I often ask jockeys how long they’ve been with their pony. I like to know how long the partnership has been established as it takes time to build a rapport with an animal. Even if they are sitting on an open pony it takes time for the rider to learn how to push the right buttons. With young ponies, the process is like the Argentinian tango; two steps forward, two steps back.

    We competed mainly in workers but no matter which class you’re contending you need to have everything in place before you get to a show. Preparation is key and you must do the work at home.

    I’d say to anyone coming into the sport: ask, prepare and train. There are some incredible trainers dotted around the country and we must tap into this experience to improve ourselves.

    H&H 29 October 2020


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