BSPS championship director Philip Hilton: ‘You have to rock and roll with the options’ *H&H Plus*


  • The BSPS championship director Philip Hilton on showing in the new era

    YOU can put all sorts of plans in place, but if the weather isn’t good you’re set up for failure. This weekend at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Winter Championships we were blessed with great weather. In all, the quality of competition was outstanding.

    This show at this time in the season is for the novice and restricted ponies, and there were some lovely new faces.

    One of the most encouraging trends was in the young children’s classes; in one cradle stakes class we had 22 entries. Lockdown has been positive for these jockeys who have been able to improve their riding, take more lessons and change up their routines; maybe even trying other disciplines, like some cross-country schooling.

    Splitting classes into sections of no more than 12 in some instances was also beneficial for the mini riders. The smaller class sizes meant children weren’t standing around for too long and ponies came out fresh.

    Only the Royal International (RIHS) classes were stripped to aid with timings, and no marks were used in line with the new rules. Both judges and competitors seemed happy. From a judge’s view, it’s much more fun to officiate without marks. You can tweak the line-up as you see fit and the pull-in and final walk-round really does add to the class.

    Allister Hood riding DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER owned by A Jenks, Champion in the Riding Horse of the Year Championship Final during HOYS in the NEC in Warwickshire in the UK on 9th October 2016

    Philip Hilton


    COVID protocols are changing all the time. The BSPS created a skeleton schedule months ago but we had to wait and see how the Government agencies were going to guide us before dissecting the plan and making amends as necessary.

    As a showing director, you’re only as good as the people who you work with and, thankfully, the BSPS team make everything run like clockwork. We have great stewards and volunteers who are the ultimate professionals.

    For some of them, it’s their annual holiday and we like to look after them. This time our hands were tied so we couldn’t provide them with the usual service; we couldn’t have a congregation of judges and stewards around the breakfast table which is usually a great buzz before a day’s showing.

    Most ate a breakfast roll on the hoof before the show started, made do with a packed lunch in their cars and had to be served dinner in their rooms back at the hotel. But not one single person complained.

    Hosting working hunter sections in the indoor school also took some planning, and with Horse & Country TV filming we had to get it right. We wanted to utilise the space, but as only one horse and rider and their bubble were allowed in the arena at one time, we had to juggle the schedule.

    Thankfully, course-builders, pole-pickers and judges are deemed as workers so we managed to hold the novice and restricted classes inside. We also couldn’t hold the supremes or evening performances inside but we made it work – you have to rock and roll with the options you’ve got.


    IN recent years I’ve become increasingly disappointed with the numbers of plaited ponies forward in classes. As a society we’re concerned as to where the show pony and hunter pony is heading, and it’s something we’re looking at.

    Breeders are fed up with producing animals they can’t get the money for, and producers can’t source the type of animals they want. There needs to be a compromise. Perhaps in the future we’ll look at the height sections so breeders have some leeway. They have little control over the height a foal will make and currently the sections are quite restricting.

    This year will be my 25th year as show director of the BSPS, and it will also be my last. I’ve met some fantastic people and while the role has changed massively – we delegate a lot more now – I’ve done it for long enough and it’s time to hand over the baton.

    This exclusive column is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (22 April, 2021)

    You may also be interested in…