Stuart Hollings: feeling the heat — in both senses [H&H VIP]

  • When I interviewed newly appointed working hunter judge Sarah Lears earlier in the season, one of her must-haves was “clothing for whatever the great British weather throws at you”.

    Good advice indeed for everyone, given the unpredictable weather conditions we have experienced so far on the showing circuit.

    The weather pattern last month was described as a “meteorological quickstep” — hot hot, wet wet, hot!

    We were basking in a Caribbean heat wave at Royal Windsor, only for shows such as Devon County and Hambleton to cancel, due to rainfall of Biblical proportions. The following weekend, I judged at Midland Counties and found the searing heat uncomfortable — as did some of the ponies who came under me and subsequently performed under par.

    It’s a show secretary’s ultimate nightmare when making that monumental decision to cancel. I know from personal experience and this is the reason the North of England Summer series moved to all-weather arenas at Arena UK. The Lincolnshire venue also provides another important consideration — hardstanding parking facilities.

    I can understand when the plug is pulled on events, sited on privately owned land. But I’m struggling to comprehend how bad weather can contribute to the same fate at permanent county showgrounds, particularly when so much time and effort goes into the preparation of, more often than not, the main fixture of the year.

    The hot topic, however, in the showing ranks is: should show secretaries be instructed by the governing bodies to give more notice to exhibitors when the decision to cancel seems likely? Is it acceptable to wait until the morning of the show, when competitors from far afield are on their way to the show field?

    It was encouraging to see some showing societies working in the best interests of their members, with regard to not losing the important qualifying rounds. Some of Hambleton’s Royal International [RIHS] pony qualifiers were reallocated to BSPS Area 3A, a couple of days later.

    It was a similar situation when Rutland took on those from Devon’s third day and Midland Counties even reopened its hack, cob and riding horse entries following the Hambleton cancellation.

    The late journalist Muriel Bowen, who is responsible for the popularity of today’s cob classes, often told me that Joe Public loves to watch shire horses, hackneys and young children competing.

    Working hunter classes should be added to that list and, if you need proof, remember how great the atmosphere was at last year’s Horse of the Year Show [HOYS], when the working hunter class was rescheduled to a more sociable timeslot.

    It was a similar scenario at Bramham this time. The wonderful ring in an idyllic setting, surrounded by tradestands and, more importantly, interested spectators provided a shop window for the worker classes. This created a real buzz overall, often missing in showing.

    Adele Hanson was the last to declare in the HOYS qualifier, having arrived late due to being stuck on the M62 with a blowout for 21/2hr. She jumped one of eight clears with her Bushmills (pictured) to take the class and coveted ticket.

    This was showing at its best and is my highlight of the season as a spectator so far.

    My worst moment was at Notts County, when getting white paint on my new jacket after leaning on the permanent main ring rail. Sadly, Tricia Johnson’s warning in her Royal Windsor report came two weeks too late!