Rebecca Penny: We can all become a little complacent *H&H Plus*


  • Should the new format for pony classes be maintained, asks H&H’s showing columnist

    Over the past few weeks, a little more normality seems to have resumed on the showing front. I’ve even managed to attend a couple of events myself.

    I’d like to echo Simon Reynolds’ words of praise (27 August issue) for those particular individuals who have really gone above and beyond to give us all a safe environment to resume competition. Some have done a great job utilising fabulous new venues, while others have made established show centres increasingly “Covid secure”.

    Scott Dixon, who organised the UK Nationals, created an entirely new show, an impressive feat in such challenging circumstances. This could potentially have been a huge gamble for an individual with no previous experience of running a show, but I must take my hat off to Scott. In mine and many peoples’ eyes, the show was both fantastically organised and a tremendous success, culminating in a spectacular supreme line-up set to rival any major championship show. Hopefully this fixture will be an exciting addition to the calendar that we will see return in 2021.

    Back to basics

    Obviously, some major changes have had to be made in order to comply with Government guidelines. We’ve almost had to go back to basics, with mark sheets abandoned in the majority of classes.

    The final walk-round has been reintroduced in pony classes and I do believe this is a positive thing. That final walk-round is extremely important; not only does it put emphasis on the walk pace – which can be forgotten in the individual show when riders are only required to perform a few strides – but it also highlights which ponies have manners and which do not. It keeps riders fighting for that red rosette to the very end.

    We are all guilty of returning to the line-up after our individual show and becoming a little complacent, as in theory our mark has been awarded and we can do no more to advance our placing.

    The British Show Pony Society Summer Championships held a direct Olympia qualifier for the mountain and moorlands (M&M), where the structure of judging was changed somewhat from what we are used to. The usual two judges were replaced with a single judge. There were no marks and no strip for conformation, which begs the question, should the remaining places for this competition all now be judged using the same criteria?

    The four ponies who qualified for Olympia were guaranteed that if the 2020 final does not go ahead, then they can carry their qualifications over to the 2021 show. The question now is, should we maintain the one-judge format so we have a level playing field or should we, when possible, return to the standard format?

    I believe that if a certain competition has commenced, then we should maintain the same criteria right the way to the end, instead of changing it halfway through. It does not just apply to our M&Ms – if any qualifier for any final starts using a particular format, it should be used for all the classes, as opposed to switching back when normal service resumes. Showing already gets a bad rap for being unfair at times, so this could put some competitors at a disadvantage.

    Avoiding clashes

    Another major positive for me is that virtually every show I have attended so far has had set class times. This is bliss. As a competitor, you can organise the day so much better to avoid clashing classes and, most importantly, have your animal spot-on for that specific time. It eliminates the hanging around and the risk of your horse or pony peaking too early.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 17 September 2020