Rebecca Penny: ‘All you have to do is turn up and it’s no laughing matter ’ *H&H Plus*


  • RIHS qualifiers need to become more competitive, says Rebecca Penny

    AS I write this I have seven shows looming over an eight-day period – obviously not with the same horses. I don’t know whether to celebrate being back in full swing, or to put in a furlough request as the sheer thought of it exhausts me before it begins.

    On a serious note, I’m concerned that too many shows are being crammed into such a small time frame, in some cases in close proximity, while offering the same qualifiers. As a result, entries across the board are suffering massively.

    It has become a standing joke that in the open Dartmoor, Exmoor and Shetland classes all you need to do to gain a Royal International (RIHS) ticket is turn up and stay on, but it’s no laughing matter.

    Nor is it a healthy competition, as we are in danger of qualifications holding very little value or kudos unless something is done to boost class numbers and entice fresh faces into showing.

    Is it potentially a case of reducing the number of qualifiers for unsupported classes, or should the small breeds be amalgamated to make the qualification process a little tougher?

    I’ve pondered for hours, as I’m sure many show organisers have, as to what is pulling the entries in at certain shows and what’s causing the huge decline at others. I feel there are several contributing factors.

    Some people simply don’t feel ready to go showing just yet. Others have found alternative disciplines to explore and used the break to go down these avenues. However, one of the main issues is an exhausted resource of judges.

    We’ve got to the stage where the same people are judging week in and week out, and as exhibitors we have become much more selective and savvy with entries once we have established the individual’s likes and dislikes.

    The National Pony Society (NPS) has a fairly demanding judges’ assessment, which is a good thing in many respects. However, with several counties now having only one listed panel judge, it leaves secretaries with little room for variation. But how do we entice new candidates to come forward?


    AT the first of four Stoneleigh Horse Shows this weekend it was good to be able to make full use of the showground’s great facilities and surfaces.

    Unfortunately, heavy rain over the past few weeks meant that on the Saturday working hunter competitors were faced with far from ideal going on the only grass ring.

    Full credit must go to the organisers for acknowledging this and acting swiftly to make amends by rearranging the second day’s classes to give suitable going. They couldn’t turn back the clock, but they acted in the competitors’ best interests. It makes a big difference when show organisers listen to competitors.

    What a shame the Great Yorkshire Show doesn’t do the same. Organisers took it upon themselves to include a new “in-house” rule affecting most of the pony classes. This stated that only those riding a pony in its class, or someone of an age eligible to do so, could ride it anywhere on the showground, yet this isn’t a rule approved by any society.

    I appreciate equine welfare considerations must be respected, but I don’t believe this has anything to do with welfare. There are situations when a novice rider or inexperienced pony is competing and the best way to keep a partnership safe in a buzzy atmosphere is for an experienced, suitably lightweight rider to prepare a pony for a class.

    Over the past few years the Great Yorkshire Show’s policies have caused quite a stir. If its organisers are not content with standard rules and regulations imposed by the showing bodies which they affiliate to, then perhaps they should not hold the qualifiers.

    This feature is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 June 2021

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