Simon Reynolds: ‘Showing can be fickle and people easily forget’ *H&H Plus*


  • Simon Reynolds asks whether we need to support different kinds of shows, plans for 2020 and creating the illusion of the best horse

    As we come to the end of a very difficult season of showing we need to keep ploughing on with ideas for next year. What struck me is that the more established form horses of 2019 did not really make an appearance this year, and instead we saw the novices take precedence in a bid to gain experience at the limited shows available.

    It will be interesting to see how the top horses fare next season. I’m sure some will have benefited from a bit of time off to freshen up, while others might suffer; producing a multi-champion horse relies on outings to gain that all important form.

    Although Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS) are planning to go ahead next season, there has to be a plan B in place as we just don’t know what is around the corner. Top horses need finals and big classes with proper prize money to keep their prestige. Showing is a subjective sport and the mastery of it is to create the illusion of the best horse.

    It’s a bit like a rolling ball and you have to keep gaining accolades at the big events to be the dominant star of the circuit. Showing can be fickle and people easily forget.

    Bring back showmanship

    Sadly, we are realising that there may not be some of the county shows next season and so this is where the showing community needs to be forward thinking. With the support of sponsors and owners I believe we can make it happen. Despite the times, the backing from owners and competitors has been very encouraging.

    We need to keep moving to bring showing back from the brink. We have had concept shows in the past such as New Vision, Talk Of The North and Ponies (UK) Masters, which sadly fell by the wayside with people favouring qualifiers over the old fashioned finals.

    The late Davina Whiteman was a driving force in creating prestigious events for showing. Her crowd pleasing evening performances were especially of note; they were often the social highlights of the year. Riders were encouraged to impress with their showmanship skills and create a spectacle for the audience. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle those sorts of events and support them, such as new show the UK Nationals, which has dates booked for next year.

    We have to remember why we all started showing. If coronavirus has taught us anything it’s to think outside the box. We must move on and realise that times are changing, even if it is full circle back to the good old days.

    A social affair

    The recent trend has been for competitors to travel the length and breadth of the country to compete in open fields to chase golden tickets with either very little or no prize money. There was a lack of support for the championship shows offering big prize pots, hospitality for owners and sponsors and a buzzing social scene. The best times we have had socially have been at these events where people seem more relaxed and the atmosphere is electric.

    I think one of the best shows of the season is the British Show Horse Association (BSHA) national championships. For me, it is the last big event in the calendar where the showing is still top class but we can let off some steam, socialise and have fun. It’s certainly one you want to win and yet it all seems much friendlier.

    From an owner’s point of view, to see their horse ridden down that centre line is what we all aim for. Those smaller venues allow for a much more sociable experience – and let’s not forget the legendary after-parties.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 December 2020

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