Stuart Hollings: ‘Take up the challenge or pay the price’ *H&H Plus*


  • Stuart Hollings encourages riders to up their game in the ring

    ALTHOUGH the 2021 showing calendar has met with disruption – as some county shows will not be taking place and other events have either cancelled or moved to later dates – the fact remains that our beloved sport looks set to be on a steady course to some semblance of normality in the coming months.

    Furthermore, the three premier events – Royal Windsor, Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) and Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) – remain on this season’s itinerary. Hallelujah!

    I’ve only attended three shows as an organiser and judge so far and noticed that a handful of male producers have adopted a heavy metal rock guise during lockdown, and definitely need their manes pulling!

    More importantly, I have been impressed how rejuvenated many of the established equines are looking following a break, and I’m excited to see how the healthy number of well-educated new prospects progress during the season and beyond.

    However, I can’t help thinking that some pony jockeys are understandably ring rusty, and haven’t fully embraced the opportunity of raising their game from playing-safe mode with the marks system not being used.

    Nor have they understood the importance of the re-introduction of the final walk-round element, which is not the same as a casual leg stretch into the front line and can determine the outcome of the class. Consequently, it begs the question whether marks do, in fact, stifle showmanship.

    A memo to riders – if a judge specifically asks for a gallop, particularly in a championship, take up the challenge or pay the price of being left out in the cold as happened at my recent North of England Spring event on two occasions.

    Above all, it will be interesting to observe if the current formbook changes significantly as we cross over into HOYS qualifying territory, when ride judging and marks for flat classes come back into play.


    I HAD a chat with fellow columnist Rebecca Penny at the British Show Pony Society winter championships about her recurring complaints over the lack of prize money on offer.

    Wearing my secretary’s hat, I explained that at North of England last month, we originally decided not to award prize money, won by a chosen few, in favour of keeping the entry fees attractively low, which affects everyone across the board.

    However, one society insisted that we gave a first prize of £15 in their RIHS classes; this meant we had to, in all fairness, action this in all the Hickstead qualifiers in the schedule, costing us over £700. Consequently, those particular entry fees became a tad more expensive despite our best intentions.

    I concur with Katie Jerram-Hunnable, another member of the Horse & Hound
    family, who mentioned in her column that generally owners were more concerned about showing starting again than receiving prize money early in the season.

    I believe many competitors don’t have a clue how much time and money is invested in any equestrian event well before the first entry is received. And I cannot emphasise enough that without the support of our wonderful, generous sponsors and dedicated volunteers, many shows would not even take place, particularly in these uncertain times.

    More shows have been utilising the online entry system during the pandemic and while it’s taken time for us to get used to it, this is the future and it’s undoubtedly here to stay. It has led to the latest catchphrase – “I must have pressed the wrong button” – which has been doing the rounds as the perfect excuse when competitors try to change or have made a hash of their entries.

    You can also read this exclusive column in the 27 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

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