Stuart Hollings: Should council members be ‘ivory towers’ or the people’s spokesman? [H&H VIP]

  • The apathy shown towards the voting process at council elections proves that the vast majority of members are not interested in the intricacies of showing politics. They only join societies to allow them to compete at top level.

    However, it’s a different kettle of fish when a new or change of rule comes into force that will personally affect them in the showring. This is when competitors react.

    The most common gripe seems to be that new rules are sprung on exhibitors after being formulated behind closed doors. Nikki Carpenter’s letter (20 February) very much echoed this feeling.

    The most practical way for societies to address this criticism is to follow the example of the British Show Pony Society [BSPS]. The marking system for some of the Royal International [RIHS] qualifiers in 2014 has been altered to 50 marks for manners and way of going and 50 for conformation, type and action from 60/40, bringing it into line with Horse of the Year Show [HOYS].

    Not everyone lauded this decision — but at least the BSPS invited feedback from its membership via its website in June last season, before it was “signed off” by council.

    This took being “customer friendly” to another level — demonstrating an interaction with the membership on an important matter, as well as giving prior notice to a possible rule change.

    One owner told me that this window of information made her subsequent purchase decision between two ponies easier, as she opted for the one with better conformation.

    In an ivory tower…

    The role of the council member has been called into question in recent weeks. Should council members encourage competitors to lobby them on showing issues and consequently take those views to the table, as their spokesman?

    Or is it acceptable when they adopt a more “ivory tower” stance and exercise their own judgement in the decision-making process? What do you think?

    It is so important for those in charge to gauge the mood in the field and this is the very reason I listened to exhibitors when I sat on several committees, years ago. Although their ideas were occasionally not deemed practical when discussed further at council meetings…

    One of the biggest headaches I faced during my time as a council member was when “traditional values” and “moving with the times” issues came into conflict. Showing has to progress and adapt to modern demands to survive. But we equally have a responsibility to uphold tradition.

    For example, the history and etiquette of the show hack might well be forgotten in the future, and our ridden native ponies could easily morph into small and large breeds unless type is preserved.

    Flummoxed by workers

    It will be interesting to see which marking system for working hunters finds favour with competitors and officials this season — the new one for RIHS qualifiers or the tried and tested method retained by HOYS [news, 30 January].

    Although I agree that horses must behave in company, whether in the hunting field or showring, I’m still flummoxed as to why the new ruling allocates such a generous 20 marks for the “go round”, which is the same as the all-important ride mark and conformation mark.

    Only 3 years ago, a rule was introduced by Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain making a random “pull in” compulsory. This was subsequently revoked at the AGM.

    Surely it would have been simpler to add “and manners” to the ride column on the mark sheet, in a similar way that pony judges are instructed to take into account the go round when awarding their show mark?

    Stuart’s column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (27 March, 2014)