Simon Reynolds: ‘we must not lose sight of tradition’ [H&H VIP]

  • Recently show entries have been proving tricky. Closing dates seem earlier and earlier, and it is time we had a simpler system for entering horses, such as a universal database on which you are given a unique number for the year. Shows would have access to it, therefore making closing dates much more flexible.

    It’s a contradiction to have online entries, which are a great invention, and yet are so complicated and take as much time as a paper entry. I remember trying to enter a pony and they wanted to know the rider’s email address. The child was seven!

    It is impossible sometimes to decide months and months ahead whether a first season novice will be ready for a specific show. I always try to keep costs down for my owners and not do unnecessary entries.

    Entries on the day should be more widely available, too. At the recent North of England Spring Show, which is always well run, on-the-day entries were seamlessly accepted and processed. And the prizes on offer were very appealing for both owners and competitors, ranging from jewellery to rugs.

    More needs to be done to promote showing. With escalating costs, societies and shows need to move forward and help competitors, by making things as accessible and user-friendly as possible.

    Not only is it a minefield for the one-horse owner, but spare a thought for the professional. Luckily our owners help with the entry process, but I had to chuckle when a fellow professional was advertising for an entries secretary. As professionals, we are expected to provide facilities worth over £1m, regularly work 15-hour days during the season and employ staff who are usually on more money than we are — not to mention have a degree in computing to manage the paperwork.

    On another note, there seems to be a problem with the clashing of Royal International qualifiers. Sometimes there are three qualifiers on the same day and we appear to see the same judges repeatedly. I think we will see some horses with seemingly terrific form — but when you look closer, the same judge has awarded them their successes. Maybe it’s time we had more variety of judges.

    The value of role models

    We have been privileged in our lifetime to witness sheer greatness in AP McCoy. To ride over 4,000 winners in two decades is phenomenal, and he is a great inspiration.

    I realise now how fortunate I was, as a young man learning my trade, to witness the great showing role models of David Tatlow, Robert Oliver, Vin Toulson, Roger Stack and Roy Trigg, to name only a few.

    They gave me the focus and vision to achieve my ambitions. The calibre of horses, hunters in particular, were phenomenal.

    Sadly, the same standard of horses is not being bred now. In those days, their second string horse would be today’s champion. We must not lose sight of tradition, and we must fight to keep the type.

    Ref: H&H 7 May, 2015