Rebecca Penny: Societies have value beyond shows *H&H Plus*


  • Life is undoubtedly strange at the moment, and the current situation will have affected people in numerous ways. While I am used to working from home, I’m now struggling with the fact that I’ve not laid eyes on a pony since lockdown began and I am definitely starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

    It soon became apparent that my affinity for riding a bike in a bid to get outdoors and keep fit is no replacement for my usual four-legged mount.

    There have been suggestions on social media that societies should look to refund membership fees, but I don’t agree. We need to think of their value beyond the role of running showing qualifiers for Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International (RIHS), coveted though these fixtures are.

    Societies still have to function and carry out administration such as foal registrations. And on the showing side, many will already have paid out for venues and incurred expenses that will probably not be covered by insurance.

    These are unprecedented times, and it’s imperative to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Societies don’t just run events – they work to promote and safeguard breeds, educate people and, in many cases, facilitate main studbooks. These things are all very much needed and some societies offer much more than you realise.

    For instance, National Pony Society and British Horse Society memberships include third-party insurance for members, which is surely a huge benefit whether or not we are out competing. They all need our support in order to be in operation still when we emerge from this pandemic.

    The Showing Register has been admirably proactive in organising podcasts, which have proved popular and informative, giving many competitors at a loose end an insight into what judges want to see.

    Hopefully other organisations will follow suit and find new ways and ideas to engage existing members or even recruit new ones.

    Variation without the pressure

    While it’s hard to find many positives within this crisis, one of the benefits will undoubtedly be that younger horses and ponies will flourish.

    I’m a great believer in not rushing youngsters and I believe many animals will come through this with better long-term futures. They will inevitably need some show environment experience at a later date but in the meantime, be constructive.

    I see that showing professional Robert Walker is boxing up his young horses and travelling them to the other side of his farm, so that even though they are at home, they are working in a different environment.

    Others are perhaps benefiting from more groundwork or enjoying a more varied work regime with less pressure.

    “We all need goals”

    There are always winners and losers. Personally, I really feel for those who have made significant investments either purchasing or leasing an animal specifically for a rider’s last year in the class, such as young riders in the final year of their age group.

    There are currently lots of questions being asked regarding the possibility of rider age limits being extended by a year. I feel it’s too early to have any kind of definitive answer. However, many would agree that it’s an avenue worth exploring, especially since a number of these combinations will have already gained qualifications for the likes of RIHS, which has understandably since been cancelled.

    I don’t have any answers but we all know there are bigger questions and priorities than when we can go out showing again. At the same time, we need goals to aim for, so let’s all try to remain positive and most importantly safe, then we’ll win through this together.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 14 May 2020