Rebecca Penny: ‘It’s left many with a sour taste’ *H&H Plus*


  • Rebecca Penny on controversial rule changes and an uncertain M&M final

    Whiel it’s good news that Covid-19 vaccinations are being rolled out, the chances of getting showing back to its full glory for 2021 look slim – at least for the early part of the season.

    I sympathise with show organisers, who are no doubt in a quandary. It’s important that we all understand these are real human beings trying their best and, like most of us, they are totally in the dark as to what impact restrictions will have on event plans.

    Perhaps this year we will see a move in qualifiers being allocated to events that do not rely on ticket sales or public admission to go ahead. This could give us a fighting chance to run behind closed doors without too much disruption when it’s safe to do so.

    End of an era

    I was sad to see the announcement over the loss of the national veterans final due to development work at Olympia. The competition has been a huge success for Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd (SSADL) and the organisers have done a wonderful job raising the profile of older horses who still thrive on an outing. While it’s certainly the end of an era, I look forward to seeing the final continue at the Royal International (RIHS).

    However, the news leaves native enthusiasts questioning if the Heritage final will meet the same fate. We’ve yet to be informed of any changes so I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that we will be fortunate enough still to be able to enjoy the Christmas final.

    Change can sometimes be refreshing and I welcome the amendment to the format of all pony RIHS qualifiers for 2021, which will now be judged without marks. Personally, I’m all for ditching the mark sheets.

    I can see several positives in this move, as well as it making my trips home trying to analyse the numbers far less frustrating. First, it could encourage people to add a little flair to their individual performance instead of playing safe in order not to drop marks. Second, it will potentially reintroduce the final walk-round, which I believe puts much more emphasis on the walk – a pace sometimes overlooked – and on manners.

    Another bonus is that event organisers may find more people would be willing to officiate without the added pressure of a maths test!


    Another rule change, affecting the working hunter sector, has been more controversial. This is the mandatory wearing of body protectors, introduced for British Show Pony Society affiliated classes.

    It’s a far cry from what members wanted when asked for their opinion at the end of last year, and judging from several posts on social media, it has left many with a sour taste.

    While I appreciate the society aims to help prevent accidents and thus any further strain on the NHS, any rule should surely stipulate the standard a body protector should meet. This seems to have been omitted from the wording, leaving loopholes.

    Currently, you are unlikely to visit a shop to have a body protector fitted by someone qualified to do so. General guidance is that it should be worn over a thin base layer, so although some tters will advise on fitting over a thin showing jacket, should we be looking at overall attire for working hunter classes?

    Even lightweight tweed is usually bulkier than other fabrics – and as one fitter I consulted said, showing people won’t wear body protectors under jackets because they don’t like the way they “spoil the line”.

    I fear that with the increase in number of independently run shows, some of which may have different rules, the society risks alienating people and losing entries, as members’ opinions are perceived to be overlooked.

    Perhaps more informative communications with some rationale or explanation as to how the decision came about would have been better received in this case.

    Ref: 4 February 2021

    You might also be interested in…