The outgoing BSHA president reflects on his three-year term
Who could have predicted this year would be as challenging as it has for us all? As outgoing president of the British Show Horse Association (BSHA), I had hoped that my final year in office would have been full of equestrian activity and fun, with all of the shows and events in the calendar.
As a society we plan two spring shows, one in the north and one in the south, as well as a national championship held at the end of the season. But when lockdown hit, everything came to a standstill. In the light of this we felt it was so important to make every effort, Government restrictions permitting, to work towards staging some sort of end-of-year show for our loyal membership.
As a precursor to the show we staged our very successful training clinics, and by doing this it became apparent that we could implement all the Government restrictions and safety measures with confidence. This being the case, we decided to go ahead with our Autumn Showing Gala.
Arena UK became the chosen venue and it was all systems go, under the guidance of our new general manager Lucy Savill. Everyone who attended, from the competitors to the helpers, sponsors, judges and organisers, entered into the spirit of the occasion.
The end result was that members had the chance to socialise again, young horses were given the opportunity to get out and some lovely animals became champions. It did help that the weather was kind, too, so it was smiles all round.
One of the many highlights for me was being presented with a memento for my time in office as president, which was so unexpected.
Pay attention to bad production
I have been a member and judge of the society for over 45 years, so to be asked to stand as president was an honour. During this time, I assisted chair of judges David Ingle with the selection and processing of the probationary judges.
Some felt that the standard we looked for was too high, but you must aspire to have the very best. We now have some very competent potential judges waiting in the wings to join our outstanding list of judges.
As a society we have to develop and grow. Our industry is changing and we need to adapt. Who knows what the new normal of showing will be?
Some are saying that we should be doing away with ride judges as we have managed at shows during lockdown. I am not in favour of this. We produce our horses to be shown in ridden classes so they need to be ridden by a judge to assess their way of going, manners and stage of development.
What we do need to draw attention to is badly produced animals which are unruly and sometimes dangerous in the ring. More time needs to be taken in preparing show horses; short cuts and quick fixes don’t pay dividends in the long run.
Play fair and clean
Another highly contentious topic has been doping, and the appropriate penalising of offenders. The BSHA has spent time, money and effort and obtained expert legal advice to introduce its new doping policy. We need to run a clean sport where there is a level playing field for all, so a suitable deterrent has to be put in place.
Over the past three years I have enjoyed speaking and interacting with members. Many have expressed how enjoyable this season has been without the pressure of chasing qualifying tickets. Horse of the Year Show will always be special; everyone dreams of riding down that centre line. Let us hope that it won’t be long before we can be there again, but in the meantime let’s enjoy the sport the best we can.
I have been extremely privileged to have had some memorable experiences judging all over the world. Everyone does it so differently, but it does not detract from the fact that the UK has exceptional, truly world-class horses and ponies.
It has been a wonderful journey judging and interacting with everyone over the years, forming great friendships along the way. You never stop learning in this game.
Ref Horse & Hound; 8 October 2020