Simon Reynolds: A brave move in uncertain times *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist praises organisers and debates the future of ride judging

    We recently competed at our first show of the season, the UK Nationals held at Arena UK (15–16 August). It was organised by show rider Scott Dixon. Who would have thought our first show would have been in late August? We were very impressed with the organisation and general running of the show so a big well done to Scott who has had no previous experience of show planning.

    It has been fascinating to see individuals step forward to accommodate the competitors, even before the societies did so. It is a very brave move in these uncertain times for these organisers to stick their necks out and attempt what seemed like the impossible when all the odds were against them.

    The gamble certainly paid off as the general atmosphere at the UK Nationals was one of excitement and camaraderie. People were just pleased to escape the confinements of lockdown, and with no Horse of the Year Show qualifiers to contest the pressure seemed to be off.

    The format only allowed for individual shows to be performed. I was a little dubious of this as I am a traditionalist who relishes the challenge of producing for a ride judge. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The animals seemed to be fresher and riders were leaving a bit more to chance. It really showed in the performances.

    The novice sections were excellent; the standard was far superior to the open classes. Perhaps we are beginning to see the fruition of all those extra months of training.

    Even the four-year olds seemed more polished. I would like to see no ride judges in the four-year-old sections continue, and having spoken to some of my fellow producers, it seems this would be supported. It is our responsibility as the rider to give them the best experience possible and instil confidence in them.

    Traditions of our sport

    Producing a young horse for the future involves sympathetic and correct training. I do, however, think it is important that we maintain a ride judge for the open horses once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.

    Producing a horse to be ridden by a stranger is an art. It is what sets the horses apart from the pony classes and it is part of the traditions of our sport. Every horse I have bought I have had to imagine if it will be comfortable under saddle and give a good ride. This is the essence of what we are aiming for in a top ridden show horse.

    A smoother transition

    Another new show organiser is producer Loraine Homer, who has been running a successful series of events at the Dallas Burston Polo Club near Coventry.

    Interestingly, Loraine renamed the intermediate sections at her show, from the usual show riding and show hunter types, into intermediate hacks, riding horses and hunters.

    I spoke with Loraine and it is obvious that she is passionate about giving these young adults a clearer pathway into the horse sections. She believes that this would provide them with the confidence moving forwards and educate them about types, making the transition much smoother when they do venture into the horse classes.

    It made me smile when I look back at my transition from ponies onto horses. At age 16, I was jumping against Michael and John Whitaker. How times have changed! However, I am all for encouraging the younger generation, and societies such as the British Show Pony Society are fantastic springboards for them. We just need to make sure that they are well equipped to make the successful leap.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 August 2020