Simon Reynolds: Should we ban bad hands? *H&H Plus*


  • The country has been battered by storms; if you were thinking of emigrating, this winter would be the decider.

    One week it felt like we had moved to three different countries in as many days. We were in T-shirts with bright sunshine one day, then felt the extremes of gale-force winds and torrential rain the next. We even had snow. Thank goodness for indoor schools as it has been tough to get consistent work from the youngsters. However, preparation is well under way for the coming season.


    We have run a few training clinics this winter that have proven very popular. It is great to see that enthusiasm in general has not been dampened. Our pupils were both amateur and professional. No matter what your level, I think it’s always good to gain another perspective and eye from the floor. None of us are beyond accessing help as you just never stop learning. We always have to be open to new ideas and be ready to take on constructive criticism.

    Safeguarding our next stars

    Every year it seems new rules are emerging with each showing society. The British Show Horse Association (BSHA) have imposed a ban on the swales bit in novice classes for 2020. I have always said that any bit in the wrong hands is a problem. Can you imagine making a rule to ban bad hands? It has, after all, been enforced for overweight riders, another welfare issue.

    In all seriousness, I understand why the rule has been implicated as not all riders are capable of riding in every bit, but I do think that is a judgement each rider should make for themselves. I don’t think we all need nursemaiding.

    Technically, there is no age limit on a novice in that society and not all novice horses are four-year-olds. For example, a horse that has never shown but has hunted or showjumped before may need a stronger bit and would still be eligible for novice classes.

    I am so glad to see that the BSHA have imposed a rule that horses in novice classes must be ridden by the judge first before their saddle is removed for conformation. As a judge, I have always followed this procedure as otherwise it is not fair for the horse or the judge.

    This is a much fairer and safer option — many young horses are not comfortable with a quick regirthing, and it can be unreasonable to expect them to come out and settle into their job under those circumstances and with a strange rider.

    Extra time and care should be taken in these classes to give them the best experience possible. This includes from stewards and judges.

    It is always appreciated when officials make every effort not to rush through these classes and when an appropriate ride-judge is selected — one who is confident yet sympathetic. As a ride-judge, I never expect young horses to go perfectly and I always give allowances for green mistakes. They’ve all got to start somewhere.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 February 2020