Simon Reynolds: ‘Showing needs to move away from overweight, robotic horses’


  • Top show horse producer Simon Reynolds on why we need to safeguard the future of showing

    I AM always amazed at this time of year at just how early the shows are starting. I used to pen my first show in the diary for the middle of April, to get in a few outings before the Royal Windsor Horse Show in May. Nowadays, entry dates are closing for shows scheduled months ahead.

    We like to take our young horses out and about to some different venues, before even thinking about a show. Showing clinics are also a great way to educate horses, without the pressure of a show, and to listen to another viewpoint. After all, that’s what showing is about; it’s based on somebody’s opinion.

    I’m a big believer that we never stop learning, especially with horses, and sometimes another perspective can be a real game-changer. We can all be guilty of getting stuck in a rut, but each horse should be trained differently – and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. You have to learn to adapt your training techniques to benefit the individual animal.

    Change is needed

    I HAVE thoroughly enjoyed watching snippets of Crufts on the television and was so impressed by the high standard of showmanship and the quality of the dogs. I don’t think I saw an overweight or lame dog in the final line-ups and they all seemed to sparkle with character and charisma.

    A show animal, whether that be a dog or a horse, should have these qualities in abundance. My hope – to safeguard the future of horse showing – is that we move away from the unhealthy trend of dull, over-topped horses that have no pizzazz. I don’t think anyone can justify putting obese animals at the top of the line.

    Unless judging opinion changes in the near future, I’m concerned where showing appears to be heading. There is nothing more disheartening than watching a class of overweight, robotic animals, and surely we should be prioritising these larger issues of welfare before others. It is a showing class, and animals should be, as renowned Crufts’ judge and commentator Frank Kane said, “fit for purpose”.

    Another example of this phrase was well explained in the recent letters section of Horse & Hound magazine (3 March) where Irish Draught Horse Society (GB) president John Newborough described the links between type, conformation and functionality of the Irish Draught. The society should be congratulated. They take great care as the custodians of the breed to ensure its quality and longevity, while still acknowledging their role in modern times.

    The power of the horse world

    IN response to the atrocities in the Ukraine, the power of the horseworld has shown its true might this month. Showman Allister Hood’s daughter, Louenna Hood, collected aid in abundance to help the children of the Ukraine, and it was driven there in truckloads by hay and straw haulage specialist Philip Judge and popular showing judge Nigel Oliver.

    In addition to that, the cause raised over £105,000, a staggering amount considering that the initial target was £500. The generosity of people and companies has been astounding.

    It also demonstrates the impact of social media, which I have said has the capacity to do wonderful things, but also can be a damaging place. It was refreshing to see this tool used for a worthy cause and with tremendous success. Well done to all involved and let’s hope this trend continues throughout the season for the better.

    Showing matters really do pale into insignificance with the magnitude of current world affairs, and I hope people take stock this season and appreciate how lucky we are to have horses as our chosen sport.

    • Which main welfare issues in showing do you think need to be brought to the fore? Email us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 24 March

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