Rebecca Penny: ‘Entries are looking worryingly sparse this season’


  • WHILE the 2022 season is now well and truly underway and qualifiers are starting to ramp up, it seems entries on the whole are looking fairly sparse at many events nationwide. This begs the question: should some classes be offering two places at the final when entries across the board are so low?

    The British Skewbald and Piebald Association (BSPA) has always awarded two Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) qualifications in each section, but at two shows I’ve recently attended, it’s been noted that the exceeding 153cm plaited coloured horse section had zero competitors forward.

    At another show just a single plaited horse exhibit was presented, essentially meaning that out of six potential qualifying places that were on offer, only one ticket for a major final was actually awarded.

    To earn that place at the RIHS, all that was required from that exhibit was to turn up and stay on board. While I’m in no way questioning that horse’s quality and worthiness of the ticket, in my eyes that’s not a competition and perhaps it needs some re-evaluation with regards to the number of places available to ensure our prestigious championship shows do not lose kudos.

    “We’ll become complacent”

    SO what’s the underlying cause of depleting numbers in general? Is it the increased fuel prices? Do we have too much choice as competitors with numerous shows clashing?

    Is the rising cost of living simply leaving people with much less disposable income, which in turn is forcing them to be much more selective about the shows they attend? Or are people simply giving up the sport entirely?

    I’m sure it’s as demoralising for show committees, who are working tirelessly to host events and then see classes with ones and twos forward, as it is for us as competitors. As a rider, I get absolutely no satisfaction winning a class of two and fear we will all become complacent and have no desire to improve our performances if we continue down this path.

    Interestingly, only the other day I received an equine competitors survey by email from the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations, which I took as an indicator that the agricultural shows might also be feeling the pinch. However, they must be applauded for taking steps and reaching out to us to request feedback.

    It’s a sad, scary time for everyone, but as a sport we need to take more proactive steps to overcome this. Asking competitors for their thoughts is one step towards trying to rectify the situation.

    A fitting award in memory of a legend

    HAVING received an email newsletter from the British Show Pony Society (BSPS), it was great to see some new and well-devised incentives that have been introduced.

    One such initiative is the aptly named Robert Oliver showman’s award, where six under 25-year-old riders from various sections will be talent-spotted throughout the season before going head to head in a final held at the BSPS summer championships.

    While some of the children competing won’t have had the pleasure of watching Robert give a masterclass of showmanship, hopefully this is the sort of incentive that will encourage children to add a little bit more spark or individuality into a performance.

    As Simon Reynolds pointed out only a few weeks ago in his column, we desperately need to move away from show animals being “robotic” and boring, and add a little more pizzazz to our performances in the ring.

    • This column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 21 April

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