Robert Walker: ‘Recalling show animals for height checks shouldn’t be anonymous’


  • Robert Walker discusses show animals being called for remeasuring mid-season

    It’s been a very tiring year and I’m sure, after last season, a shock to the system for many. But it’s been wonderful to be back out, performing in front of crowds. After the Royal International, we’ve had one of the most full-on periods and this is when we must rely on our experience as horse people not to overdo the shows.

    I oversee each of the horses on a regular basis and check in to see how they’re looking and feeling. A show animal is on the lorry for a long time and while they all have different constitutions and different goals for the season, some need longer breaks than others.

    All my horses have a “summer holiday” and part of the art of producing is working it all out and ensuring you get it right during busy periods.

    With this in mind, is it just me or do there seem to be more shows on offer than ever before? There is something for everyone; from local shows to bigger county fixtures, from unaffiliated championships to lots of qualifying opportunities.

    My favorite fixtures without a doubt are the traditional agricultural shows. I’m probably behind the times, but I love the old-fashioned, old-world feel. There’s always something to do, aside from showing; if you’ve had a bad day in the ring, you can make up for it with a nice day out. Shows without the other elements or held at equestrian centres can be a breeding ground for discontent.

    We recently attended the Ashbourne show (21 August), one we always look forward to, and this year was no different with plenty of stands, crafts and other exhibits to watch.

    An issue of height

    NEGATIVE feelings are always present at this time in the season; it’s the “sulky” time of the year. One increasing concern for me is the amount of animals being recalled for remeasuring mid-season.

    While of course we want everything to be fair, the fact that an individual or society can recall an animal at any time in the year, even if it’s been measured at the beginning of the season, seems wrong. Moreover, the objection can be put in anonymously, with the objector remaining anonymous even if the animal measures within height again.

    For those days between being recalled and remeasured, a producer, owner or rider will be going through hell, while the individual who put the complaint in sits back and is protected. Anyone in the class could have recalled the horse for any reason, and we can’t rule out the possibility that someone could be doing it out of jealousy, bitterness or, even worse, to prevent an animal from competing at a certain show. It seems funny how most recalls take place just before the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

    The vets are appointed to measure as they’re respected, working professionals and shouldn’t have their reputation questioned in this way. Are we saying the vets are crooked? Gone are the days where a vet would be slap happy with the stick. They take it seriously, and have the resources in place to dope test a horse if needed.

    It’s a fractious situation; we’ve all paid our money to have our horse measured, and put lots of effort into making sure the animal is ready for the procedure. To have this potentially taken away due to bad blood is something that needs looking at.

    Maybe, once a horse has its certificate at the start of the year, it can’t be recalled until the end of the season, to avoid competitors strategically complaining to avoid an animal being presented at a big final. It would prevent people constantly looking over their shoulder, worried their animal might be called three-quarters of the way through the term and unable to show.

    On the up

    Ending on a more positive note, the sport is still looking promising and entries have been buoyant. I remember at one time we were all worried about the number of hunters around, but now all the weight classes are well filled, and with quality, too. Let’s keep this up.

    Enjoy HOYS and then take some time to relax.

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