Robert Walker: ‘Low entries are a blow for show organisers’


  • Some shows must lose out when it comes to qualifiers, writes Robert Walker

    AFTER a particularly dull and rainy winter, we’re finally into spring and starting to reap the benefits of all the hours of hard work we put in when we probably didn’t feel like doing so.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that at points over winter I doubt myself and do feel the pressure of being ready for the upcoming year. Our young horses have all had debut outings and I’ve been happy to see how some of the older animals have progressed.

    It’s a nice time of year as we’re gearing up for the bigger shows, and there’s anticipation about which horses will take the spotlight during the season.

    Of course showing, like any sport, isn’t immune to negativity, but I feel positive when I get to a lovely grass showground filled with horses, ponies and their riders ultimately having a nice day out in the sunshine.

    Too many opportunities?

    THE Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) qualifying circuit is well underway, with most regional shows offering a host of qualifiers.

    It seems that entry numbers are generally low across the horse classes as riders aren’t overly fussed about taking their horses out every weekend. While this is understandable due to the rising costs of living and fuel, it must be a blow for the show organisers who put the qualifiers on, and they must be left scratching their heads as to why they don’t have the entries.

    In short, there probably are too many RIHS qualifiers.

    I’m lucky in that I have several hunters to compete across the weights so I can support most shows in my area. If I just had one hunter, or one in each weight class, I wouldn’t be able to attend as many.

    Ultimately, we can’t compete at every show. I do feel for the organisers, though. At a recent show the hunter qualifiers only had one or two entries in each class with two judges officiating. I’m sure the cost of paying the judges’ expenses cost more than the show would have returned from the entries.

    However, I’m sure that as soon as the first of the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers get underway numbers will start to increase again; it’s still the ultimate aim for my team and owners.

    Hot debates

    WELFARE in showing has been at the forefront of discussion this year, with debates about fat horses and head trimming taking precedence. Fat horses are something we must all be looking to clamp down on at all times, but I feel we’re in murky water with trimming unless it becomes a rule put in place by every society across the board.

    Currently, there is no governing body in showing which has issued a ruling for all societies to follow, which makes things unclear and uncertain. Showing is flourishing at both top and grassroots levels, and could such rules push more people away? Should trimming really be at the top of our agenda?

    Gearing up for Royal Windsor Horse Show and I’m preparing the team for a hectic schedule, aided by the need to find stabling off the showground. We have found a site some 25 minutes from Windsor Castle, and while I appreciate that this year those taking part in The Queen’s Jubilee Pageant should take precedence over us, I hope that showing competitors will be offered stabling in the future again.

    It’s one of my favourite shows and owners love to attend. It’s a spectacle to be treasured, albeit being one of the most exhausting shows of the year.

    ● Will your show season be impacted by rising costs? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column can also be read in full in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 28 April

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