Rebecca Penny: Mares can be extremely rewarding *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    With the season drawing to a close, it’s useful to take a step back and reflect on the past few months.

    I’ve been encouraged to see an increase in the number of mares qualified for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in the mountain and moorland sections this year. It’s a huge bonus for breeders if a mare has a successful career under saddle, as it shows she can perform and enhances her CV for when she goes to stud in later life.

    While some people are reluctant to consider a mare for ridden classes because they can sometimes be deemed as “unpredictable”, I’ve found often that, if you work with a mare the right way, they can be extremely rewarding. There’s also a belief that stallions automatically have more presence, but I think presence is down to the individual animal, rather than being related to gender.

    It’s said that you should tell a gelding, ask a mare and discuss it with a stallion. In my experience, a stallion or gelding will be more amenable than a mare. To a certain extent, a stallion will accept you saying, “we’ll do this my way”, whereas mares have their own opinions and you have to read their reactions more carefully.

    Low Olympia entries

    It’s interesting to compare the numbers forward in Olympia’s direct qualifiers — where section winners go forward to a championship and only the champion pony goes through to Olympia —with HOYS qualifiers. There seems to be a big swing in favour of HOYS; it’s not uncommon to have five ponies forward in one of the 10 Olympia direct classes, whereas HOYS classes frequently have more than 40 entries.

    The only exception seems to be Royal Windsor, but I assume everyone wants to ride there, regardless of the ticket on offer. So, what else could be stopping people from entering? Olympia is a fabulous show; the fundamentals of the qualifiers are well thought-out and organised, and the quality of the finalists is never in doubt. Could it be because only one pony goes forward?

    Or is it the expense? Entry fees are on a par with those for HOYS and include stables, but other costs are much higher. If you have a 7.5-tonne lorry that doesn’t meet London Emission Zone standards, you have to pay an extra £200 a day. You can’t sleep in your horsebox, so that means you face London hotel costs.

    Could it simply be that Olympia is held in the run-up to Christmas and competitors have run out of money? Answers on a postcard, please.

    I’ve also noticed that all the direct qualifiers have been taken by large breeds. It seems unlikely that the quality of the large breeds overall is better than that of the small breeds, so is it just coincidence?

    Like many people, I’ve got to that point in the season where I’m looking forward to winding down after HOYS. I’d like to wish everyone competing the best of luck.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 28 September 2017