Simon Reynolds: Let’s move away from fat robots *H&H VIP*


  • Competitors seem to have been bombarded with new “on-the-day” rules at recent shows in wet weather. While we understand it is important to protect the show grounds as much as possible when the rain descends, we must surely endeavour to be as practical as possible.

    Riders have been grateful that there have been few cancellations; however, some shows put up so many restrictions that it can make it practically impossible to prepare your horse for the class. I have seen rules imposed such as “no cantering” and “no lungeing on the show field”.

    Unsurprisingly, not all horses come off the lorry prepared to go in the ring.

    Not everybody seems to have these “police horses”, although I am amazed that many competitors do miraculously bring these animals that can step off the lorry and go around the ring without fear, despite not having broken a sweat before entering the arena.

    However, the reality for most isn’t so rosy, and most horses will require lungeing or riding that will involve cantering. Can you imagine going showjumping and the organisers preventing you from jumping the practice fence?

    With restrictions on how we are to work in, what tack we can use and the incorporation of the marking system — in my opinion the biggest restrictive downfall of them all — I do wonder sometimes where showing will be in 10 years time.

    Old-school judging

    It was so refreshing to see how the hunters were judged at Derbyshire Festival by two old-school judges. They were clearly reading from the same script and looking for a hunter that was fit for purpose, and not what I describe as the typical “fat robots”.

    The ride judge rode in a forward manner and was clearly enjoying the horses with gears that covered the ground and could cross some country. He seemed to enjoy the thrill when a horse carried him around the arena, even going on up another long side as he was savouring the ride so much.

    This was different to some judges, who ride show horses as though they are doing a dressage test.

    With Great Yorkshire and the Royal International around the corner, we will no doubt see more of this old-school style of riding which will hopefully excite the crowd and show off the hunters to their best. Speaking to my fellow competitors, this is what is wanted and therefore we won’t lose sight of what is actually required of a ridden hunter.

    Calendar dilemmas

    It has been encouraging to see overall numbers in most classes up, especially now the Horse of the Year Show qualifiers have begun.

    However, it has been strange to see record numbers of competitors in some classes but a small number in others, despite high pre-entries. At a recent county show there were 20 in one class, but only three in another. Class numbers are very unpredictable at the moment.

    I don’t suppose it helps when a number of shows seem to cluster around the same date, while some are mid week, and then at other times we have gaps in the showing calendar.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 4 July 2019