Simon Reynolds on the dangers of too much travelling and keeping hunters’ way of going true to type
AT the past few shows I have attended as both a judge and a competitor, I was pleased to see that class numbers are on the rise. I must admit that after the pandemic I was fearful for a while that showing may have lost its appeal.
Class numbers have been worryingly low as of late, something which fellow H&H columnist Rebecca Penny picked up on in her last column (3 June).
It begs the question, where have all the competitors been hiding? Let’s hope the buzz is back and we see this surge continue for the rest of the show season.
At the recent Midland Counties show (5–6 June), class numbers were in the 20s and 30s in some sections. It was particularly wonderful to see the hunters filling the arena; even the ladies’ hunters seem to be popular again.
Disappointingly, the heavyweight cob section still appears to be the lowest-filled class, although hack numbers have been consistently high, even throughout the Covid downturn.
In recent years this has not been the case, with hacks and ladies’ horses fizzling out as a seemingly dying art. Perhaps the extra training time during lockdown has proven fruitful for some.
With some high-profile shows on the horizon, are competitors wishing to get out and gear up for those? I am pleased to see that most professionals seem to have survived the Covid curse. At one point it looked to be a real problem and I was concerned for our industry.
I have seen familiar faces from the amateur sections, too, and despite worries that some showing competitors may have taken up a new hobby, such as golf, everyone appears to be enthusiastic.
JUNE and July are looking to be full-on, with one professional stating they did five shows in eight days. Perhaps being forced to stay at home during lockdown wasn’t so bad after all.
With an influx of shows stretching the length and breadth of the country, competitors perhaps with fewer horses should be careful about excessive travelling, especially if the recent hot weather is set to continue. The lure of a golden Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) ticket should not be at the expense of the animal.
My advice would be to pick and choose where you enjoy competing and try to enjoy the show rather than fixating on the potential outcome.
One worrying trend I have noticed this year is some riders’ apparent obsessions with cantering as slow as a hack when riding in the hunter divisions. I don’t know where this has sprung from, but from a judge’s point of view, and indeed the spectators, there is nothing more disappointing than watching a stifled performance. The way of going of an animal should be reflective of its type.
I dread to think what these animals will look like in the big rings of Hickstead and Great Yorkshire. The purpose of a hunter is to cover the ground and “go places”. They should never be accused of loitering!
Cob of a lifetime
FINALLY, I hope you enjoy the tribute to Hallmark IX in this week’s magazine (Legends of the sport, p68). Sadly, he passed away recently, and this feature celebrates the king of a horse that he was.
When my wife Natalie and I were composing some notes I found it to be a very emotional experience. H&H has always done him proud, and he graces the pages for one last headline.
How very fitting that he appears in the magazine that championed him throughout his illustrious career, and how lucky I was to have ridden him. Farewell, old friend.
This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale date Thursday 17 June
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