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Piggy March: ‘Horses bring out the best in us’

*Opinion*

  • The winner of Badminton 2019 plus six senior championship medals, Piggy March, on why we need to be respectful of differences in the industry – and offer advice constructively

    NEGATIVITY around equestrianism on social media, from people on the inside of horse sport, is sad and upsetting.

    We all know the realities of life with horses and sport – everything isn’t perfect and heart-breaking incidents do occur. But the reality is that most horses in sport are shown a great deal of attention and respect. When incidents do occur, the veterinary care is quick and top class. I’d much rather be a competition horse than a field ornament.

    We need to work together and all be on the same team. Yes, horses are ridden and trained differently across the various disciplines, but we should be respectful of that and think before we make negative comments about someone’s riding or horse welfare.

    It’s important to consider how we word opinions, and offer advice constructively. We shouldn’t cover things up, but we need to talk about what we do in an honest, fair and respectful way, making it clear the horse’s welfare comes first.

    We are all unbelievably lucky to live in this world, with horses. It’s a hard-working, healthy lifestyle, often shielded from the horrors of the outside world.

    My son Max is being brought up around horses and he will learn to ride. It’s up to him if he competes or not, but there are so many positives in learning to work with a wonderful animal, outside. Being with horses makes us better people – they bring out the best in us, as well as us bringing out the best in them – and it’s so much fun.

    Social media makes the horse world so visible and we need to avoid fighting among ourselves – we must club together.

    A new challenge

    I HAVEN’T been to a county show for years, but I loved watching young handlers talking with such passion about sheep and calves at Blaston Show – and again, enjoying an outdoor lifestyle. It was refreshing also to see diverse parts of the horse world, from driving to Shires, and to remember equestrianism is a massive industry.

    Talking of different disciplines, it was brilliant to see Paul Sims, who has ridden at five-star level in eventing, looking as stylish as ever as he scored a well-deserved win in a big showjumping class at Bolesworth. Well done him.

    I tried some pure showjumping at the Royal Norfolk Show, on Cooley Lancer, an event horse who is a superb jumper. I love the new challenge although I’m a way off looking like Paul!

    In one fun class, I only had to jump six fences and didn’t think it looked that hard – until I tried to angle a fence and missed. I came out with my tail between my legs, but I want to try again, to improve myself and my horses.

    On to the Worlds – and Burghley

    I’VE had a quiet few weeks on the eventing front, but we’ve just returned from Upton House, where the effort they put into the ground was incredible and much appreciated by all the riders. I know some events are struggling at the moment, but Upton was full and it goes to show that quality events will be rewarded with strong entries.

    I’m very proud that Vanir Kamira has made the British long-list for the eventing World Championships, although with her age, a long journey and likely hot weather in Pratoni, I don’t realistically expect her to be called up unless a lot of others fall by the wayside. So we’ll crack on and target Burghley.

    Last year, Covid meant we lost nearly all the big spring three-days and Olympic selection came to a head at Bicton CCI4*-S. This year we’ve seen a more normal pattern, with contenders spread across Kentucky, Badminton, Bramham and Luhmühlen – and some potentials being weeded out through injury or poor performances.

    It’s great to see new names – Yasmin Ingham, Kirsty Chabert and David Doel – holding well-deserved spots on the list or reserve list after good results. It’s been hard for anyone to have a chance to shine without major competitions.

    There’s no set final trial event, though I think most people will need to show form and soundness at four-star short again to seal selection. The hard part of riding for the British team is that our potential team-mates are so strong. We have to keep performing, without overrunning our horses.

    ● How can we better support each other? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 21 July

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