Robert Walker: ‘Until I am told “no”, I will gear up’ *H&H Plus*

  • Robert Walker discusses what the road out of lockdown means for showing

    Listening to Boris’s recent announcement made me realise how much discussion topics have changed. During the season, we’re usually among the gossip of who’s got what in their yards or who’s judging where. Nowadays, we’re only concerned about what the Prime Minister will say next.

    The most recent broadcast regarding the roadmap out of lockdown was something all competitors have been waiting for. It was refreshing to get some positive news so we can set some goals. We sometimes get laughed at for calling ourselves “athletes”, but showing riders, like all sportsmen, need vision and targets to aim for.

    In all honesty, it’s been pretty miserable around the place of late; with hunting removed from the calendar, the yard no longer gets rid of me for two days of the week! We’ve been concentrating on the babies, but it’s been like groundhog day with no shows in sight. Now, we finally have something to work towards.

    Last year, we put several youngsters on the back-burner. My owners were hugely supportive, but while one year out was doable, I would question if people would keep horses in production for another 12 months if there were no shows. We all know it’s often one step forward, two steps back with this virus. Now we have vaccines, let’s hope organisers are given confidence to carry on with planned fixtures. Until I’m told “no”, I’ll be gearing the team up for the season, starting with Royal Windsor in May.

    Showing for all

    A month ago, I was disappointed to see that one showing society had cancelled two shows scheduled for June. These shows were to be held in the middle of fields and I questioned why they’d cancelled such a show, with predictably low outgoings, so early on in the year.

    While it’s frustrating, someone else will take the dates and the shows that don’t run will phase out as the season’s schedule evolves. One example of a highly successful new show born in the pandemic was the UK Nationals. There were
    not only heaps of nice, young horses exhibited by fellow professionals, but also there was a new brigade of riders who I’ve never seen before.

    The unaffiliated classes drew new competitors who we can only hope have got a taste of the sport and opt to stay. The unaffiliated constituency, whether at riding-club level or grassroots showing, is huge. These people love to show, but perhaps just not at the level we do it; the rules, qualifying system and general affiliation is not for everyone.

    It’s telling us that there is an opportunity for us to be inclusive and welcome new people into the sport by providing opportunities for them. This is also displayed at the big county shows when they host unaffiliated novice classes; the entries for these are always staggering.

    Main-ring buzz

    Taking the announcement into consideration, I do believe we’ll have the Royal International to look forward to. My two favourite big shows are Bramham and the Great Yorkshire. While they might not be the same this year, I do hope secretaries of the county shows may look to run the equestrian sections.

    I was speaking to Lucy Savill, secretary of the British Show Horse Association, who said that the society was more than willing to guide organisers in the right direction if they are perhaps struggling to find ways to put shows on. They’re there to help work out strategies and provide advice.

    The Great Yorkshire has been my family holiday since before I can remember. That main ring still gives me the same buzz when I walk under that clock tower. It’s an amazing opportunity to ride in a nice, big ring and roll on round the edge, showing off your animal. I can’t wait until we’re all back in there on our future stars.

    Also published in H&H 4 March 2021

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