Rebecca Penny: It is the ponies that are being judged *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I read with interest a letter in Horse & Hound (16 August) from a reader whose family had recently become involved in showing. There was subsequently an online survey published by The Showing Register (TSR) on whether a rider who qualifies an animal for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS) should be the only person allowed to ride it at the final.

    We’re all entitled to opinions. Mine, from the standpoint of someone who is frequently asked to ride other people’s exhibits, is that essentially we must remember it is the ponies that are being judged, while the riders are there to show them off to the best of their ability.

    Therefore, I believe the owner should reserve the right to decide who they nominate to ride without any form of restriction as to the number of horses and ponies they can qualify.

    If a restrictive rule was adopted, it would affect hugely those breeders and owners who do not ride themselves, people who work full time and children with school commitments. It would also demonstrate a distinct lack of respect for the integrity of our judges.

    Qualifying for any major final should mean you are among the best. It’s something to aim for and something you have to earn.

    If it hasn’t happened yet, be your own biggest critic and ask why, rather than assuming there is a conspiracy. It’s been proven over and over again that talented amateurs can compete successfully alongside professionals and, in many instances, beat them.

    What will this achieve?

    Perhaps recent TSR surveys stem from a desire to seek views, but I fail to see what they are achieving — especially when carried out without considering the wider impact they may have, including on individuals’ livelihoods.

    While it’s great that TSR will publish results and share the findings, have they the authority to action any of these findings, or are the surveys just causing friction among the showing fraternity and creating an even more prominent divide in the professionals versus amateurs debate?

    TSR, which is a limited company, is relatively new compared to other showing societies. Interestingly, its rules for its own showing finals say that the rider/handler qualifies, not the animal, and that a qualified exhibitor can ride or lead any horse or pony — not necessarily the one from the qualifier.

    If you want an example of how to run a show, look at the British Show Pony Society. They are the absolute masters and this year’s summer championships were, as always, fantastic.

    The organisation and timings were superb, and the atmosphere was fantastic. Children were encouraged with thoughtful gestures. For example, in the tiny tots’ classes, sashes went to sixth place. These classes were huge, which must be good for the future.

    When a team has such knowledge, and such obvious pride in its show, it shows what our sport should be.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 September 2018