Stuart Hollings: ‘These ponies rose to the occasion when it mattered’


  • Stuart Hollings on Windsor memories, hobby horses and points’ schemes...

    Wonderful Royal Windsor Horse Show is a show like no other and I leave with special memories every time. As I am something of a history buff, it has to be my favourite event of the season with its iconic castle backdrop and historical connections.

    The show pony champion, for instance, is awarded a trophy presented by the famous sporting Savile Row tailor Lord Bernard Weatherill, who was also the speaker of the House of Commons from 1983 to 1992.

    It’s always an honour to judge there. I had the pleasure of sorting the open show ponies this time alongside former successful Team Hollings jockey Natalie Mulrooney (née Middlemas), as well as the competitive ridden mountain and moorland (M&M) ridden section with my co-judge Jane Brace.

    Interestingly, the Welsh section C victor Gems Malt Whiskey was bred by the late Richard Deptford, whose father Albert won the Royal Windsor show pony championship several times as an owner or breeder of such legends as Pretty Polly, Pollyanna, Gems Signet and Holly Of Spring.

    Although I’m always on the lookout for the next new star, my two champions, show pony Stoneleigh Showtime (Izzy Walker) and M&M Castle Kestrel (Lucy Glover) both deservedly secured overall honours for the second year on the trot.

    When the Royal Windsor, Royal International and Horse of the Year (HOYS) shows were held “in the capital”, Showtime and Kestrel would have been described as London ponies. They rose to the occasion when it mattered most, finding some extra pizzazz and gears, rather than being simply one-dimensional.

    Some second-placed combinations came to the fore at the show, proving that championships should be judged as separate classes, particularly when there is a reasonable time gap before the championship and when judged in a completely different ring.

    A poignant moment for me was watching Tandridge True Gold take the novice show pony championship. Her dam, Crafton Touch Of Gold, was the last pony I produced and won the HOYS 148cm class with us in 2010 and 2011, as her dam Cratfield Fairy Gold had done in 1987 when produced by Davina Whiteman. It also brought back memories of me winning with Fairy Gold as a broodmare at the Royal Show.

    One of the funniest stories from Windsor, in my opinion, was when three ladies turned up to judge in the same stunning outfits on Sunday. On arriving at the judges’ reception area, I wasn’t brave enough to joke, “Is this the check-in desk for Royal Windsor Airlines?”

    “It has my vote”

    Hobby horses seem to be all the rage recently, and even got a mention on Sky News and the BBC programme Have I Got News For You!

    I’m keeping an open mind, but I have to say that anything that may encourage children to compete in a show-ring environment – which could then have a knock-on effect leading to families falling in love with showing – has my vote.

    However, we must still continue to address the plight of the poor numbers in the open show pony classes and not let this issue become sidelined. Several worthy suggestions involving points’ schemes, with the object of attracting more competitors into these rings, have been put forward.

    There is an opening for something involving HOYS qualifiers for the British Show Pony Society to consider now that the La Liga awards for consistency are no longer running. A replacement along the lines of the prestigious Waterford Crystal hunter points championship – another scheme where animals were awarded for their consistency in HOYS qualifiers during the season – springs to mind.

    In 1983, after lifting the actual HOYS show hunter of the year title on the day, Vin Toulson and Elite returned to the Wembley arena immediately afterwards to be presented with a glass trophy. My brother Nigel finished runner-up on the heavyweight Super Coin. Happy days!

    ● Are hobby horses positive for showing? Let us know your thoughts at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 May

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