Robert Walker: Top horses rarely meet these days *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Horse & Hound has always been a must-read in our household. Growing up, it was the equestrian magazine I loved to read, not only to follow the results from the showing circuit, but also other disciplines, including my favourite passion at the time — hunting.

    I grew up in what I consider a “golden era” of showing. The season began with Leicester County Show and finished at the City of Leicester Show.

    The season was set out by the calendar and great county shows were not only a place of class competition, but also a fantastic day out for riders and owners alike. We would constantly see top combinations going head-to-head at major shows, such as Bramham, Shropshire and West, The Royal and East of England.

    In a sport that is so demanding on time and effort, to be able to unwind after the class with a walk around the show could often relieve the disappointment experienced after a bad day in the ring.

    Nowadays, a lot of these shows have folded and have been replaced with area shows, many of which are based at equestrian centres. People set their seasons around who is judging where and when, which leads to top horses rarely meeting. Nevertheless, this can be understood when competitors are making choices regarding entry and diesel costs.

    Personally, I am not a fan of area shows — I consider them to be a breeding ground of unrest among exhibitors, many of whom have had a long journey, setting off at an ungodly time to watch their horse or pony stand down the line. These shows leave the funder — often “Daddy”, who is generally not as keen as the rest of the family — with nothing to do other than make the tiresome journey home. For this reason, I plead with governing bodies to look at the existing county and agricultural shows when awarding qualifiers.

    Shows are starting earlier than ever. I’m unsure how many horses are registered in each section, but it is impossible to see full classes throughout the season — competitors cannot do every show.

    The bigger picture

    A grumble I’ve heard a lot recently goes something like: “One thing our sport cannot do without is judges and stewards.” Bear in mind they give their time for a minimal fee, often free of charge. Try to be polite and respectful. We as competitors are not going to agree with everything judges say and do, but don’t take it personally; it is usually just personal choice. Like most, I’ve previously left the ring furious about a judging decision. But now I try to put it into perspective. I ask myself:

    “Does it really make any difference to my life in the grand scheme of things?” The answer is usually no.

    There will always be the odd wrong one that creeps through the selection process and, if they make decisions for reasons other than the quality of the horse, then they are only going to make themselves look daft. There is always another day.

    It could be down to cost-cutting, but I’ve seen recently, more than ever, judges starting at eight in the morning and finishing late into the afternoon.

    I’m sure this is due to shows trying to get the most out of any one judge, but please be mindful as you may need to ask them back in the future — let’s not abuse their goodwill.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 August 2018