Royal Windsor M&M judge Clare Dew: ‘I’m not there to judge a hack class’ *H&H Plus*


  • Clare Dew reflects on this year’s M&M ridden classes at Royal Windsor, which she judged alongside Ruth Newman

    IT was an honour and privilege to judge the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) Heritage mountain and moorland (M&M) ridden classes at the 2021 Royal Windsor Horse Show, especially in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen.

    After 18 months of cancelled events and no major shows, to see Royal Windsor in all its glory, including the fabulous backdrop with tradestands and spectators, was a breath of fresh air and life felt normal for a day. For once, the weather forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms proved inaccurate and it stayed dry.

    I have known my co-judge, Ruth Newman, for many years and I can honestly say that we were in complete accord with all the placings. Those that impressed me with a balanced and correct performance also came up on conformation.

    Riding to breed type

    IT was a little disappointing that there was a set show, which leaves no room for personal flair and showmanship, but I understand how the timetable at these major shows must be adhered to.

    A show of choice allows riders to show off their pony’s breed or best qualities, though a set show does give everyone a level playing field and the best performances can shine through. It did also prevent riders from doing complicated and overly long shows, which I would have penalised.

    Ultimately, these animals are native ponies and should be judged in accordance to their breed type. While many natives fare well in other disciplines, they’re not designed for the dressage arena and I’m not there to judge a hack class.

    Long, complicated shows – including several circles, serpentines and halt to canter transitions – have become a fashion among native pony riders, though I see them to be mostly unnecessary; I can see if a pony is balanced, mannerly and correct in the first half of the show and long, drawn-out performances take too much time.

    Despite this, I would always encourage older riders to show off neat transitions with minimal trot across the diagonal, instead of great long extensions, picking up canter in the corner. If a rider is over 16 years of age, I would expect them to be able to pick up canter on the straight, unless their pony isn’t balanced, which is a problem in itself.

    Unfortunately the small breed classes at Windsor were not well filled, with just four entries forward for the Dartmoor, Exmoor and Shetland. However the Fells, Dales and Highlands and the Welsh section D classes were particularly impressive.

    My highest ride mark of the day went to the section C winner (Synod Riley); he was beautifully balanced and very sympathetically ridden.

    I wonder if the lack of small-breed ponies is something to do with the birthrate of jockeys, but I do hope they pick up again soon. We also had no New Forest ponies presented for judging which was a shame.

    The goings-on in the next door arena with the obstacle cone driving caused one or two animals to become unsettled, and one poor competitor had to contend with a rousing chorus of Land of Hope and Glory while attempting to execute her individual show.

    Quality and presence

    OUR ridden M&M champion was the most outstanding Dales (Nipna Midnight Rambler) that oozed quality and presence with fabulous action. He covered the ground effortlessly and shouted champion the minute he entered the ring. The reserve went to the hotly contested section D (Menai Eurostar) class where any one of the top six could have been worthy winners. This stallion had true pony characteristics combined with ground covering paces.

    Congratulations must go to the organisers for a superbly run event, with all staff – from the cheerful marshals seeing us across the road to the meet-and-greet ladies in the judges’ reception area and the wonderful hosts and stewards at the Copper Horse Ring who greeted us with smiles and coffee – working tirelessly throughout the day.


    This exclusive column will also be available to read in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 8 July

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