Stuart Hollings: ‘Let’s re-introduce some fun classes’ *H&H Plus*

  • We need to promote the plaited ridden pony, says Stuart Hollings

    H&H editor-in-chief Sarah Jenkins mentioned in her editorial (28 January) that good news is getting harder to find in these challenging times. So when a positive headliner comes along, especially at the beginning of another competition year, it raises people’s spirits.

    The British Show Pony Society (BSPS) definitely came up trumps at its Zoom annual general meeting a week later when announcing that the next Le Mieux mountain and moorland supreme championship would be taking place at Liverpool International on 1 January 2022. The judges there will be Vanessa Clark, Pat Pattinson, Natalie Middlemas and James Munro.

    As ridden native ponies have been competing at the London venue since 1978, I’m sure enthusiasts will continue to nickname the competition “Olympia” for some time, just as the diehards still refer to the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) as “Wembley” and the Cuddy in-hand competition as the “Lloyds”. Nevertheless, this is a most welcome move due to the development work at the Olympia site.

    I clearly remember a thoroughly enjoyable New Year’s Eve at the Liverpool show in 2016. There was a great buzz, similar to the Christmassy atmosphere of Olympia. Apart from top-class showjumping, we were also royally entertained by the internationally renowned group Collabro and the Abba tribute band, Revival.

    Plaited promotions

    Following this exciting reveal, Penny Clifford – who will be judging show ponies at HOYS in October – raised a valid point: should the BSPS now be concentrating on ways to raise the profile of the plaited pony and encourage more entries in the flat classes?

    As well as Liverpool, native ponies have another platform at their very own Heritage championship show, and working hunter ponies now feature at the Burghley and Vale View working sports pony shows.

    Those exhibitors who managed to go showing last year remarked how much they had enjoyed themselves.

    Let’s continue with this theme by re-introducing some fun competitions from the past, like the successful pairs and side-saddle classes that were included in the schedules at Royal Windsor, BSPS summer championships and even the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS).

    They were supported by competitors across the board and not necessarily with top-flight ponies.

    I’ve also suggested running a ridden progeny class with groups of three ponies — either out of the same mare or more likely by the same stallion — at the summer championships, so that modern-day riders may become more aware of the breeding of their ponies.

    It’s disappointing when I sometimes ask the jockeys for breeding details of their prize-winning mounts during championship award presentations, as they often don’t have a clue!

    Showing to music

    However, I hear the BSPS will be launching something brand new at its summer championships, the Royal Bronze pony to music competition, aptly named after one of our own show ponies.

    One of “Royal’s” many triumphs was winning something similar in front of a packed grandstand at Ponies UK in the early 1990s after performing a freestyle show to M People’s Search for the Hero under Australian judge Jo Prestwidge.

    I deliberately chose a continuous piece of music which was on trend, as the song was featured in the Peugeot “the drive of your life” television advert, and I will never forget that Royal made an amazing entrance at trot into the Peterborough main ring to the track’s uplifting intro.

    An alternative approach is to choose different music to suit each pace, often seen in the dressage arena. Whatever you decide, please support this new class in August. I can guarantee it will push your artistic flair and showmanship to another level.

    This exclusive column is also available to read in the Thursday 25 March issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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