Rebecca Penny: ‘Variety is key for a show animal’


  • Perhaps now is the time to rethink how you use your winter break, suggests Rebecca Penny

    WHILE we should all endeavour to use some of the winter to take a break and wind down a little, how many of us use this time out of the show ring wisely to ensure we’re ready for next year?

    We’re all guilty of wrapping our horses and ponies in cotton wool during the season and then as soon as the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) ends in October, we either turn them out to grass for a few months, give them time out from competing while still riding them or even carry on and contend the winter show circuit.

    But are these paths really adding variety, which is a key component to having a happy and successful show animal?

    While browsing Facebook a few weeks ago, I came across a photo of the 2021 HOYS cob champion Red Butler out on the hunting field, just days after he was trotting down the centre line at the NEC with his rider Sarah Walker.

    How lovely to see him go from being crowned cob of the year to having some real fun and letting his hair down – albeit not so much of it in his case.

    One of the most important attributes of any show animal is one that performs with a smile on its face and says, “Here I am, look at me,” when in the ring.

    As horses and ponies get older and spend more and more years on the circuit, keeping each individual bright eyed and happy in its job with that all-important look-at-me factor and sparkle becomes increasingly difficult.

    Understandably, the majority will get bored of repeatedly trotting around a ring week in and week out, being required to perform the same moves over and over again.

    Adding something new and exciting to their routine can be just the ticket to keep them sweet over the summer months, keep their interest and hopefully prolong their career.

    Spending time doing activities you wouldn’t normally do with your show animals can often highlight slightly different training methods that can then be adapted for when in, or preparing for, the ring.

    And while no two animals are the same, you can sometimes find the key to a quirky pony by channelling it in a different direction and giving it a new outlook.

    Job well done

    DURING the last week of October, competitors who had recently returned on a high from the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage championships, having collected a much sought-after mountain and moorland (M&M) supreme qualification, were then faced with some disappointing news when the Liverpool International, set to host the final for the first time, announced its cancellation.

    It was devastating news for everyone involved and it left the M&M finalists unsure of the future of one of their major finals.

    It was going to be a tall order to find a suitable stage for a major final at such short notice. However, the BSPS really did come up trumps when they announced shortly after that once again, our native ponies would be returning to the London International Horse Show to compete on 20 December.

    It’s fair to say that we couldn’t have wished for a better outcome and while this time it will be held at the ExCeL instead of the usual Olympia venue, we are all very much looking forward to going back home to London and showcasing our wonderful breeds under the spotlight.

    All that’s left for me to do now is to make the hard decision of which pony to ride at the prestigious final. See you all in London.

    • This exclusive feature is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 18 November

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