If I had a wish list for 2018, it would be for showing to become more exciting to watch. Competitors and judges alike have become frightened to have a horse show any sparkle or, God forbid, any exuberance. Maybe this is the reason why calmers, both legal and illegal, are on the rise? I find it a sad state of affairs that horses are worked to the point of exhaustion, to behave like worn-out robots in order to appeal to the health and safety police. Let’s get back to finding the best horse in the class, not the best-behaved.
I do believe the marking system is a major reason for this. I thought Robin Sharp, who rode the show hunters at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), was a prime example of how it should be done.
He rode those horses as if he were riding across open country — no easy task in an indoor arena.
Judges often lose sight of what they are looking for in a hunter, whereas Robin was clearly assessing the gears, brakes and how comfortable they were. Of course, manners are important, but the schooling of a hunter should be forward, fluent and, most of all, comfortable — the one you’d want to sit on all day.
Mark Todd gave a fabulous speech recently at the Horse & Hound Awards. It was refreshing to hear somebody say it like it is in the “real world”. He spoke of how his job has changed over the years and it appeared to me that this is the case across all equine disciplines, where it has become a politically correct, stilted world. Toddy scoffed at the restrictions put on tack nowadays, joking that, “Back then, we could wear draw reins — it was great!” .
I was saddened to hear of the tack restriction rule that HOYS enforced this year for the qualifiers and the final, such as no draw reins, boots and certain bits. I can see the reasons it’s enforced for children, but as grown adults, do we really need this ‘nursemaiding’? I personally find it insulting. It would be interesting if they imposed this on the showjumpers and even more interesting to see how many would support the show.
The way the job is going, we will all be wearing air jackets, American football-style helmets and doing individual shows within 10 years. If that happens, it’s goodnight from me.
Ref Horse & Hound; 30 November 2017