Rebecca Penny: Is it time for showing to have one governing body? *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist believes that showing has lacked clear leaderships of late

    When the Showing Council (TSC) was set up as an umbrella organisation, it faced an uphill struggle. Trying to get a cohesive policy from so many organisations and societies without having any authority must be like trying to herd cats.

    However, looking at the way bodies such as British Eventing (BE) and British Dressage (BD) are reacting to the current situation makes me think now is the time for TSC to prove itself.

    I’ve always been unsure about what it actually does, and the information on its website and Facebook page seems vague. I appreciate that it was set up to achieve more recognition for showing, but is this its chance to become more than a talking shop?

    Its website says it is forming a working group to develop a blueprint for safe showing, but it lagged behind others – notably the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) – in doing this when it could have led the way.

    Societies need to work together, and if showing is to stay healthy, common policies are essential. Maybe it’s time for TSC to put its head above the parapet and be more pro-active.

    Members should be consulted

    There has been disappointment over the BSPS’s decision not to change rider ages for 2021. This means some riders will not have their last year on their pony or horse, and those who bought animals at the back end of last year specifically for a final year in age classes will feel badly done by, both financially and in terms of opportunity.

    As always, there are two sides to the argument. But whatever stance you take, it would have been better if the BSPS had consulted members before taking this decision.

    It says its council had long discussions via online meetings and consulted with Royal International and Horse of the Year Show organisers, but its main duty is towards its members. As such, it should have sought their views.

    Even if it had reached the same conclusion, it could have explained how this was reached. As it stands, it gives the impression of making an arbitrary decision – which is going to leave those members who are unhappy about it feeling even worse.

    Specialist producers of lead-rein ponies will be watching Government announcements. Protecting health must be the top priority and as I write the Government has announced relaxations on guidelines.

    It’s hypothetical until shows start, but I can see home-produced ponies outnumbering the professionals as many are forced to produce from home due to social distancing or other considerations. Many may realise that the lead-rein job is not as easy as producers make it seem.

    New projects

    When lockdown started, I thought horse and pony sales would plummet. In the showing world, the opposite seems to apply. Youngsters from foals upwards are finding a ready market as stores and ponies with potential are also selling quickly, presumably to people who find they have time to work on them.

    The only sales category that isn’t buzzing is that for open ponies with good CVs. The obvious reason is that these have the biggest price tags and buyers don’t want to pay big sums for ponies that are up and running when there is nowhere for them to go to.

    There are still more questions than answers and realistically, showing can never be as organised and coherent as disciplines with a single governing body. Across industry, lockdown has proved how inventive people can be in a crisis. Let’s hope we can borrow some of that attitude and move forward.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 July 2020