Stuart Hollings: I’m optimistic post dress rehearsal *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist has mixed feelings about the 2020 show season

    It’s been an unusual showing season. When I look back at some of my highlights, managing to run a successful event during this ongoing crisis most definitely belongs at the top of that list. I also judged at one show and even officiated in a virtual showing competition.

    The latter was a different experience as one exhibitor submitted a photograph of an in-hand stuffed toy horse shown by Bob the Builder. Needless to say, they didn’t make my top 10!

    But back to reality. I know competitors have raved over classes starting at set times rather than following on, but as a judge I wasn’t a fan of the breaks in between classes. Empty rings are a no-no for any show organiser.

    However, without the marks system this time, I did appreciate the return of the final walk round which allows the judge to decide the outcome of a class at the end of the proceedings rather than commit to paper earlier on.

    Above all, there was a great buzz at the shows despite limited spectators, simply because competitors were genuinely enjoying showing rather than just being there to chase qualifiers.

    Showing potential

    When judging youngstock classes, I’m always looking for prospective ridden stars. So imagine my delight when two in-hand champions of mine from last season, Romanno Spot Of Distinction and Ecclesbourne Discovery Bay, captured the novice show hunter pony and show pony championships respectively at the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) summer championships, in a year that has seen some exciting fresh faces come to the fore.

    I’m first in the queue when there’s an opportunity to promote the important role of showing, and it was also heartening to read about the success in other disciplines (reports, 15 October issue) of two jockeys who won under me in the show ring last year.

    Cate Kerr rode Lisha Leeman’s home-bred 128cm show pony Kellythorpes Tiny Dancer to victory at the 2019 Royal International Horse Show. Last month she landed the British Showjumping indoor 128cm championship title at Aintree on Dunbarover IV.

    Similarly, Martha Jobling Purser won her dressage competitions at Keysoe aboard her international ride, Valido’s Starlight. At last term’s BSPS championships, Martha headed the 148cm novice show pony on Chycoose Morning Edition.

    Poignant moments

    People have asked me what I did during the last lockdown. Like many, I went into odd-job mode and painted the exterior of my house. I was so proud of the end result that you would have thought it was the Sistine Chapel, rather than 19 windows and five doors!

    A very special moment for me in all the doom and gloom was being reunited with the last pony I produced, Crafton Touch Of Gold, who won the 148cm show pony class for the second year running with us at Horse of the Year Show in 2011.

    She has joined Cuddy in-hand victors Crafton Blithe Spirit and Kellythorpes Strike A Pose at the Buckley family’s Marcosie stud, which is only a quarter of a mile from my home at Blue Slate.

    Although one cannot offer guarantees, I’m optimistic that there will be more shows in 2021 following this year’s “dress rehearsal”, even if county events that rely on the general public decide to cancel again. Until then – please keep safe.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 November 2020