Stuart Hollings: I was in favour of an age extension *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s showing columnist feels for the jockeys who are missing out on their last season

    Let’s not be shy about the fact that Rebecca Penny’s column last month (2 July) raised some valid points, particularly regarding the British Show Pony Society’s (BSPS) decision not to extend riders’ ages for 2021 without consulting its membership. Some jockeys will now miss their last year in a variety of classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    I was all in favour of allowing an age extension for 2021 only, in these unprecedented times. It’s not as though shows have been cancelled due to inclement weather.

    This season will be a game-changer for many showing exhibitors, whether they decide to call it a day or continue at unaffiliated level. Not involving the electorate – the members – in the decision-making process could be considered a wasted PR opportunity in this dark period. This was not the occasion to allow bureaucracy to win the day.

    A simple survey could have helped the BSPS make a more informed call and, who knows, the results may have been in accord with the official announcement which would have made the outcome much more palatable.

    Having produced ponies for many years, I know how important these last-year experiences are for young jockeys, especially for those making the jump from lead-rein to first ridden and from there into open height classes. And one could argue it is even more significant for the working hunter pony sector.

    Many parents also go that extra mile to invest in a good pony so their children can enjoy a memorable last season in pony ranks. My father turned down a five-figure sum for 14.2hh Rumour on his ridden debut in 1975 to allow my brother Nigel to finish at the top with show ponies.

    On a positive note, the BSPS did inform the membership of its ruling in plenty of time to allow exhibitors to plan for the future.

    Lessons from Westminster

    The suggestion that showing could benefit from one governing body would not work in practice. In contrast to eventing, dressage and showjumping, showing societies have stronger individual identities as guardians of breed standards and type within their competition remit.

    I’ve never been a fan of large committees as they seem to be less productive, and with so many opinions floating around the table, become slow at reaching an end goal.

    I was told by a Westminster source that Boris Johnson reduced the number of cabinet ministers from 32 to 26 in his February reshuffle to make the decision process more efficient.

    When I was the northern vice-chairman of the now British Show Horse Association (BSHA), delegates regularly met with three other governing bodies – BSPS, Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)) and the National Pony Society (NPS) – to action common ground. The birth of the popular Heritage classes was one example of the successful collaboration.

    After this crisis I would like to see governing bodies which share the same membership base – such as BSHA and SHB(GB) – team up more.

    “A potential battlefield”

    The story behind the H&H news headline “Use your noodle” (18 June) – when sisters Ava and Emilia Gandy came up with an inventive use of swimming noodles for riding to enforce social distancing – not only lifted my spirits during lockdown but also appealed to my wicked sense of humour.

    My kneejerk reaction was to think if this could work in the show ring. Would it take ringcraft to an extreme level if riders jousted instead of jostling for that all important red rosette, turning the initial go-round into a potential battlefield?

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 August 2020

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