Stuart Hollings: The most bizarre requests made by competitors *H&H VIP*

  • The unnecessary hullabaloo regarding high-profile competitors having their entries returned by Royal Windsor proved one point: the general apathy shown towards closing dates by some modern-day exhibitors.

    Nobody was stricter on this issue than the late Ben Harwood — secretary of Royal Lancashire show — who would return entries without fail if they did not arrive by second post on the exact date. He told me that those particular exhibitors never missed a deadline again and often sent entries in early from then on.

    The problem was, as I lived only a few miles from the office, I was often recruited by telephone to help frantic colleagues.

    It was not a job I enjoyed at the best of times — let alone when filling in endless entry forms for rival yards!

    Competitors should never moan about paying extra fees when show secretaries provide that most wonderful service — taking entries on the day — which was championed recently by fellow columnist Simon Reynolds. He also mentioned something the showing fraternity has been wanting for years: substitution entries. However, lurking in the Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain handbook, there is Rule 33 that states “substitutes and late entries will be allowed at the discretion of the individual show secretary”.

    Whether this will ever be utilised by shows, especially those with a closing date, is anybody’s guess.

    Lost logic

    The consensus of opinion among show secretaries is that some competitors must pack their logic in the loft along with their Christmas decorations, considering some of the bizarre telephone calls received during the season.

    I was once asked by a competitor if I thought the appointed judge would like his working hunter even though I had never seen the horse — let alone over fences. His reasoning was that as I had invited him, I must know what he liked.

    One secretary received a demand to have all the chairs removed from the ringside because her horse spooked at them. Another request was if background music is playing at the show, it must be light opera and not U2.

    The most common questions can often be answered by reading the schedule thoroughly: yes, stabling is available and numbers are collected on the day, and so forth. When competing, I fully understood that it was my responsibility to ensure that I was at the ring on time, often by keeping an eye on the proceedings in said arena.

    I didn’t need to know how many pre-entries there were beforehand (which is information many of today’s shows feel obliged to supply online to avoid a deluge of enquiries the day before). That’s similar to viewing a catalogue and still being none the wiser, as no one knows how many exhibits will actually come forward.

    One time a competitor refused to wear her back number as the individual numbers added up to an unlucky total for her. But the best of all was when a leading owner insisted that her entry fees were refunded as she did not agree with the judging. Whatever happened to paying your money and taking a chance — and, more importantly, the judge’s decision being final?

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 2 June 2016